Respect has been the buzzword coming from the Pitt football offices this week as they prepare for a huge matchup against Virginia Tech.
Head coach Pat Narduzzi believes that his team, which is currently 4-1, isn’t receiving enough respect nationally. I agree with him in the sense that I believe, and have been saying it all season, that Pitt is a better team than most people realize. On the flip side of that, it’s not surprising at all that people, including their own fanbase, are hesitant to believe in this team or program.
That mindset starts with Pitt losing a very winnable game against Western Michigan this season, along with the fact that two of their wins have come against UMass and New Hampshire.
The biggest reason for the lack of “respect” is the recent history of this program. Let’s be honest, Pitt isn’t a team that has found itself in the Top 25 rankings much over the last 10 years. Consider that they haven’t finished a season ranked since 2009, when they finished No. 15. When that’s the case, you’re not going to get the benefit of the doubt with the national voters when compared to teams that are ranked annually.
This year’s Pitt team has a lot to like starting with their quarterback Kenny Pickett, who just might be the best quarterback in college football. With Pickett on their side, Pitt is entering these games with the advantage most times because they are starting with the best player on the field. The other bullet that they have in their gun is sophomore wide receiver Jordan Addison. Because of the attention Pickett is justly receiving, Addison probably isn’t receiving the national attention that he deserves for what he’s accomplishing. It would be difficult to find many receivers in college football BETTER than Addison.
Despite these two stars and other attractive qualities, the only thing that’s going to get Pitt the “respect” that they so desperately want is to keep winning. The way things currently stand right now in the Coastal Division, everything is setup for Pitt to realistically achieve everything they want. Being ranked, winning their division, playing in the ACC Championship Game, playing in a major bowl game.
Despite that hiccup at the start of the season, everything I listed above is sitting on a silver platter for the Panthers. All they have to do is keep winning. Pitt and Virginia Tech are the only teams in the Coastal that don’t have a conference loss yet, while Virginia, Georgia Tech and Duke have two losses and North Carolina sits with three. Miami is 0-1 but will play the remainder of the season with a freshman quarterback after losing senior D’Eriq King to an injury.
That makes this game on Saturday a huge game for Pitt with the winner essentially grabbing a two-game lead over the loser in the standings. The bottom line is that this is the best opportunity to advance and promote the program nationally since Pat Narduzzi has hired. Unlike the first time they won the Coastal, they were going up against Clemson and wasn’t going to beat them. This year, the ACC has no dominate team and Pitt has a legitimate chance as anyone to walk away with the championship trophy.
I’ve been as vocal about where Pitt can go under Narduzzi but he has a chance to shut me and a lot of other people up. Quite frankly, I hope he does because Pitt football deserves something good to happen to them after seemingly year after year things going wrong.
The race to Charlotte and national respect starts this Saturday in Blacksburg, Virginia. With Pickett and Addison, Pitt has the vehicle capable of getting there, let’s see if they can finally take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.