While preseason ranking don’t make the front page at places like Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Georgia, that’s not the case at Pitt.
The Pitt Panthers will start the 2022 college football season ranked as one of the top teams in the country.
The USA Today preseason coaches poll was released today, and the Panthers checked in as the No. 16 team in the nation — which is where Pitt will kick off the season on Sept. 1 against West Virginia.
While this is commonplace for some of the premier programs in college football, Pitt hasn’t reached that point yet, so today’s ranking is important in Pat Narduzzi’s attempt to re-establish the Panthers as a national program.
The biggest thing that Pitt is attempting to prove to their fans, recruits and general college football fanbases across the country is that last season’s ACC championship wasn’t a fluke, and their ascent as a program is pointing upward.
Finishing in the top two of the Coastal division and ranked would be a major sign that the arrow on Pitt football is pointing up.
Being ranked inside the Top 20 despite the losses of Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett and Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison is a sign that voters are impressed with what’s happening at Pitt.
People are impressed with what Narduzzi’s built and feel like 2021 is real and the cupboard is still stocked.
The challenge now is to prove to everyone that their belief in the Pitt program is justified, and the only way to do that is starting — and more importantly — finishing the season ranked.
If Pitt finishes the season ranked, that points to a very important status quo being maintained. I’d be very confident in laying money that the voters would have Pitt in the 2023 preseason rankings.
That would be the biggest sign yet that traction is being gained, and Narduzzi’s rebuild has reached another level.
How realistic is that? I’d say very realistic and very probable.
Not to put too much pressure on the Panthers, but with the way things stand today, I’d say it would be a disappointment if Pitt doesn’t finish the season in the top two in the ACC.
Barring any major injuries, Pitt will enter the season as one of the most talented and balanced teams in the entire ACC, let alone the Coastal division.
Not only is Pitt talented, but the schedule couldn’t be more favorable. Opening the season against West Virginia and Tennessee will be tough, but large home crowds will no doubt benefit Pitt.
If Pitt starts out 2-0, the odds are very high that will climb to 4-0 heading into ACC play.
Fortunately for Pitt, the first two conference games against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech will be played at Acrisure Stadium, so advantage Panthers.
The way I see things, the three teams standing in the way of Pitt and another trip to Charlotte for the ACC championship will be Louisville, North Carolina and Miami. Win two of those, and I like the Panthers’ chances.
Time will tell how all of this will play out, but the good thing for Pitt fans is that they’re no longer hoping for Pitt to just reach .500 and make a bowl game.
Thanks to what’s gone on the last two seasons, the stakes and expectations are much higher, which is yet another indication that after years of uncertainty, Narduzzi and Pitt are trending upward.