With Clemson officially eliminated from the ACC championship hunt, the ACC champion will be decided between Pitt and Wake Forest or North Carolina State. Regardless of who it is, a new champion will be crowned for the first time since 2014.
In 2014, Pat Narduzzi was the Michigan State defensive coordinator (and soon-to-be new Pitt head coach), Kenny Pickett was playing high school football at Ocean Township High School in New Jersey and Florida State beat a 10-win Georgia Tech team to advance to the College Football Playoff.
So… yeah, a lot has happened in the last seven years. And a lot more can happen between Saturday and the conclusion of Pitt’s 2021-22 season.
With a win over Syracuse Saturday night at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York, Pitt would pick up its 10th regular season win for the first time since 1981. That’s just 40 years. Pitt last won 10 wins in a season in 2009, needing a win over North Carolina in the Meineke Car Care Bowl to reach the elusive plateau.
Pitt hasn’t won 11 games in a season since back-to-back-to-back 11 win seasons between 1979-1981, with a bowl win to reach the mark the 11th game in each season. Pitt hasn’t won 12 games in a season since the 1976 season, the season in which the Panthers went unbeaten and claimed the AP national championship.
Pitt isn’t going to win the College Football Playoff this season, with two losses all but eliminating any contention for an end of the season Top 4 spot, but with a win over Syracuse, a win in the ACC title game and a win in whichever bowl game that Pitt lands, the 12 win plateau would match the most in team history.
With the ACC Coastal locked up, for the first time since 2018, Pitt could claim its first-ever outright conference championship. With shared Big East titles in 2004 and 2010, earning the BCS bowl bid in 2010, the Panthers never won an outright Big East title. And in eight ACC seasons, Pitt hasn’t won an outright ACC title either.
That could all change against Wake Forest or North Carolina State next weekend in Charlotte, N.C.
Pitt has its fingertips brushing across previously unreached heights and program-best records over the next three games, and it’s up to the Panthers now to fulfill that history. It all starts with Syracuse on Saturday night.