To call the second game of the season season a must win is ridiculous, right?
No, not when you’re talking about the Pitt football team and the importance of this Saturday’s game against Tennessee.
I believe that Pat Narduzzi has this program headed in the right direction and is very close to becoming an elite program in the ACC.
But in order to become that and not just a mediocre program as they were referred to today by a publication in Knoxville, this is a game that they HAVE to find a way to win. Coming close and playing a good road game won’t be good enough, only a win will start to change the perception of the Panther program.
The magic number for Pitt this year is nine wins, something that’s not been done during the Narduzzi era. The fan base desperately want that number and the football program no doubt wants to reach that and higher. If they do what they’re supposed to do and take care of business on Saturday, that type of season becomes a lot more realistic.
The bottom line is that Tennessee isn’t one of the top programs in the SEC right now. They’re actually very mediocre and are in the process of rebuilding under first year coach Josh Heupel. Considering his background and the history of their program, I suspect they’ll be playing meaningful games in Knoxville fairly soon but they’re not at that stage yet; which is why Pitt needs to win this game. In the last 13 seasons, this Tennessee program has won six games or less eight times.
If Pitt comes up short against the Volunteers this week, it’s likely another 7 or 8 win season for the Panthers.
Which will be unacceptable.
Quarterback is the most important position on the field and Pitt has the clear edge with Kenny Pickett. They also have the best skill position player with Jordan Addison and arguably the top defensive player in Calijah Kancey.
Playing in front of 100,000-plus fans will no doubt be challenging ,as will facing the fast paced offensive scheme of a Heupel coached team. But that’s something Pitt has faced over the last few years with different opponents. However, there are players on this defense, especially in the secondary that haven’t gone up against that. It’s not going to be easy.
With that being said, it doesn’t change the fact that for Pitt, this is a must win game.
If they come up short, it doesn’t mean their season will be a disaster or a failure. But it will mean that it’ll likely be another “Pitt type” season of being an average ACC program, at best.
It’ll also be another year where fans (right or wrong) will continue to question whether Narduzzi is the right person for this job.
Pitt fans are tired of this program finishing a season with seven and eight wins and I don’t blame them. There’s nothing wrong with wanting more and raising expectations. Lord knows they’ve been waiting along time for this program to take the next step.
Beating Tennessee won’t take them to the next step but it will put them on a path for a nine or 10 win season and if that’s something they can start doing year after year, then the Pitt football program will have taken that next step.