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ESPN Ranks Pitt Football Non-Conference Schedule as Most Difficult in Power 5



Backyard Brawl

Pitt football plays great rivals in the non-conference schedule for the upcoming 2023 season, making it an exciting time for the fans.

One issue with having three major rivals on your non-conference schedule is that you create tough matchups almost every week of the season and almost no rest for the team itself. ESPN senior writer Chris Low noticed this and chose to name Pitt for having the toughest non-conference schedule in the Power 5 (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC).

“This was a close one between Pittsburgh and Louisville, both of whom face three Power 5 opponents (including Notre Dame),” Low wrote in a post Monday examining Power 5 schedules. “The Panthers get the nod based on having to play back-to-back games against Cincinnati and West Virginia on Sept. 9 and 16, an especially difficult assignment given how heated the “Backyard Brawl” rivalry is and that it shifts to Morgantown for the first time in the series’ renewal a year ago. In addition, following their trip to Notre Dame on Oct. 28, the Panthers host No. 3 Florida State the next week.”

Pitt will face off against Cincinnati in the second game of the season for the first time since they were both in the Big East in 2012. Pitt won the first seven matchups of the River City Rivalry, but Cincinnati has won four of the last five and both teams finished with four wins a piece in the eight years they faced off in the Big East (2005-12).

The Panthers won a classic against the Mountaineers last season, 38-31 at Acrisure Stadium to kick off 2022 thanks to a interception returned for a touchdown by defensive back M.J. Devonshire. That matchup was the first between the two since the Mountaineers left the Big East in 2012 for the Big 12, which ended an almost 70 game streak that the rivalry occurred every year since 1943.

This matchup for Pitt at West Virginia will be the first since 2011, the last game between the two in the Big East, which Pitt lost 21-20.

Pitt will also travel to face off against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. at the end of October. They will look to enact revenge from the worst loss in the series to Notre Dame, 45-3 at Heinz Field in 2020.

Notre Dame is 3-1 in the series since Pitt joined the ACC in 2013 and have won the last three matchups in 2015, 2018 and 2020. They also won the last matchup in South Bend, 19-14 in 2018 and have won the last three at home against Pitt.

The other opponent Pitt faces in the non-conference is Wofford in the home opener on Sept. 2. Head coach Pat Narduzzi will take on his former offensive coordinator in Shawn Watson, who is the head coach of Wofford after taking over for former Pitt defensive coordinator Josh Conklin.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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