Pitt was picked to finish eighth in the 2020 ACC media preseason poll on Friday. It’s not exactly an unfamiliar spot for the Panthers, as they were picked seventh in 2019 and 10th in 2018.
Despite that, they’ve routinely out-performed those modest expectations. The Panthers went 6-2 in league play in 2018 to win the Coastal Division and tied for the fifth-best record at 4-4 in ACC play and 8-5 overall last fall.
The Panthers themselves see their continued underrating by the media as disrespectful.
“That’s just another day for us,” senior quarterback Kenny Pickett said after the poll was released on Friday. “I feel like we get that disrespect every season. It is what it is. I don’t care about preseason accolades or preseason rankings. At the end of the season is what matters.”
“We’re just gonna call it what it is. I feel like that’s disrespect,” added redshirt senior safety Damar Hamlin. “Straight like that. I feel like that’s disrespect. That don’t effect our approach. That don’t effect nothing. Ever since we all decided to come back, it was all about proving why we need to be where we deserve, so we’re not worried about no preseason list, none of that. We’re not thinking about that. We’re going to show it, week in and week out. We definitely take it as disrespect and they’re gonna see about it.”
While the Panthers acknowledge that the preseason rankings haven’t kept them from achieving their goals in the past, they do plan to use the slight as motivation once more.
“It’s definitely motivation, but there’s other motivation that we have, too, as well, so it’s just adding fuel to the fire,” redshirt senior defensive end Patrick Jones II said. “I definitely think it’s a little chip on our shoulder, but it’s not too big where it’s going to distract us. It’s just big enough where it’s going to motivate us. I definitely do feel like people sleep on Pitt, so I feel like that’s our goal this year, to get respect from everybody.”