A bowl game is certainly not guaranteed, as the Panthers enter the final week of their regular season with a 5-5 record, but if invited, the Pitt Panthers will attend a bowl game this year, head coach Pat Narduzzi confirmed on Tuesday.
“That’s my intentions,” Narduzzi said, but whether or not Pitt will get a bowl game is very much undecided, and Thursday night’s regular-season finale against Georgia Tech will go a long way to deciding that fate.
“We really haven’t thought much ahead because we’re focused on [game] No. 11 and trying to earn No. 11, and then after No. 11, you ask did we earn a 12th? We’ll find out Saturday,” Narduzzi said. “If our guys come out and do what they need to do and we’re able to come out on top, then you earn No. 12.”
If Pitt does play in a bowl game, it will likely be one played toward the end of December. The Military Bowl in Annapolis, Md. will be played on Dec. 28, the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa, Fla. is scheduled for on Dec. 26 and the Boca Raton (Fla.) Bowl will be played on Dec. 22.
The first two games would cause the Pitt players to have to miss spending Christmas with their families, after having already needed to stay with the team over Thanksgiving in order to remain within the team’s COVID-19 protocols.
“I know our kids and kids across the country are itching to have a little family time,” Narduzzi aid. “I know that, especially around the holidays. Bowl season is never easy on our kids ever, and it will be even harder when we say you can’t go home for Thanksgiving; you can’t go see your parents. … It’s not an easy time for anybody.”
In addition to Pitt’s final game against Georgia Tech, the other item that will be a significant factor in Pitt’s bowl fate will be the number of teams the ACC sends to New Year’s Six bowls. Notre Dame and Clemson are currently in the top four slots for the College Football Playoff, but play against one another in the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 19.
If the loser of that game falls out of the top four, they could slide to the Orange Bowl, where 8-1 Miami would likely currently slot. The Hurricanes, if they beat North Carolina this Saturday, could also qualify for an at-large bid to a New Year’s Six Bowl.
If the ACC sends at least two schools to a New Year’s Six bowl, that will help bump the Panthers up the pecking order.