Pitt was not ranked in ESPN’s Way-Too-Early top 25 back in January, an oversight which ESPN’s Mark Schlabach admitted as much in April’s edition, but Pitt made the list the second time around.
While Pitt wasn’t as high as a ninth-ranked spot according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, Pitt still earned a Top 15 spot, if only just barely.
Pitt was ranked as the 15th team in the country by ESPN’s Mark Schlabach, checking in as the third-ranked ACC team in the poll — behind North Carolina State and Clemson.
Four ACC teams now in the latest ESPN way-too-early Top 25 from my colleague Mark Schlabach – headlined by NC State up to No. 7 https://t.co/vLKoseXmMP
— Andrea Adelson (@aadelsonESPN) April 21, 2022
Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, Utah(!) and Texas A&M form the Top 5. And with the trio of Alabama, OSU and Georgia, it’s obvious. Utah lost a lot on defense, and the reigning Pac-12 champ will have its hands full with Lincoln Riley’s USC. And Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies put together a ridiculous recruiting class, but it remains to be seen whether the results will translate to the field.
Notre Dame, NC State, Michigan State, Michigan and Oklahoma State round out the Top 10. That’s right, NC State — a media darling selection so far this spring — is the No. 1 ACC squad.
Clemson, of course, wasn’t far off at No. 11. Which is also surprising since most outlets still rank Dabo Swinney’s squad as a Top 10 — if not Top 10 team.
Pitt is the ACC’s No. 3 team, checking in as the 15th-ranked squad in the country, with Schlabach writing:
“The post-Pickett era at Pittsburgh began with a new quarterback as well as a new offensive coordinator — albeit a familiar name for Panthers fans. Frank Cignetti Jr. is back for a third time to call plays on offense, and Pittsburgh should be more balanced than it was under pass-happy Mark Whipple the past three seasons. Slovis, who threw for 7,576 yards with 58 touchdowns in 27 games at Southern California, was battling Nick Patti to replace Pickett. The Panthers added Mumpfield, who had 751 receiving yards and eight scores as a freshman at Akron in 2021. Replacing two starting linebackers, including Bright, who transferred to Washington, was a priority this spring.”
Can’t fault that analysis too much. The Kedon Slovis-Nick Patti battle has been a key factor, although the battle isn’t yet over. And the linebacker competition to replace two starters and Johnny Petrishen was the top defensive storyline, but it was interesting that Shocky Jacques-Louis was listed as a “key departure.”
Wake Forest checked in two spots behind Pitt at No. 17, aaaaand that was it for ACC squads. The three Atlantic powerhouses and Pitt. Also not too surprising, but I’m surprised Miami wasn’t ranked.
A preseason ranking doesn’t mean anything, but the fact that Pitt avoids NC State, Clemson and Wake Forest this season is… big. Miami, North Carolina and Virginia is the extent of Pitt’s conference schedule, and maybe Louisville, but it’s not exactly a doozy.
Tennessee, at No. 24, is the only ranked squad on Pitt’s schedule this season, according to this ranking.