Pitt football starts their 2023 season at 3:30 p.m. this Saturday, Sept. 2 against a Shawn Watson-led Wofford at Acrisure Stadium
Although there’s plenty to be optimistic about, this Pitt football team is also hard to get an accurate read on because of the amount of talent gone from last year such as defensive linemen Calijah Kancey, Habakkuk Baldonado and Deslin Alexandre, linebacker SirVocea Dennis, defensive backs Brandon Hill and Erick Hallett II, wide receiver Jared Wayne and running back Israel Abanikanda.
We’ll find out if this Pitt football squad can start to adopt the motto of ‘We don’t rebuild, we just reload’, as a number of newcomers will be put in prime-time positions.
With the season kicking off on Saturday, Pittsburgh Sports Now reached out to members of the media and asked them for a prediction on the win total for Pitt football in 2023.
Mike Asti (SportsNow Network): 8-4. Pitt has a good team again, but the schedule is tough, and the defense is going to allow teams to put up points. While the Panthers have upgraded at QB from last season, Jurkovec is also prone to make some critical mistakes. Turnovers will cost the Panthers a game or two they otherwise should win, possibly even in the Backyard Brawl.
Logan Carney (SportsNow Network): 8-4. Pitt should be good, but their schedule is tough. 11 Power 5 games, including a tough game at Notre Dame and both North Carolina and Florida State on the ACC schedule, granted at home. I’m not as high on Jurkovec as most are- his last two injury filled inconsistent seasons lead a lot to be desired – but I trust them to replace everyone on defense. They’ll probably lose a game against a team they’re better than because that’s Pitt too. Ultimately, a good team, but a really tough schedule.
Karl Ludwig (PittsburghSportsNow): 9-3. I do think this season’s team is better than last season’s. There are some losses, sure, especially on the defensive line, but I don’t think the losses will be back-breaking. The unknown can be scary, but it’s kind of what Pitt is known for in terms of growth on the defensive line. And that growth isn’t limited to the defensive linemen. I don’t think Pitt is facing a murders’ row this season either. But Phil Jurkovec’s play will still determine exactly how far Pitt can go this season. And if he’s healthy all season, which hasn’t been the case over the course of his career, I think double-digit wins can be achieved. I’m very bullish on this season.
Dominic Campbell (PittsburghSportsNow): 10-2. I’m pretty high on Pitt football this season. I think they have very few weaknesses and that many players who haven’t had a chance to show their talents before will do so this season. People say their schedule is brutal, but they play their best teams at home, Florida State, North Carolina, Cincinnati, besides Notre Dame. If quarterback Phil Jurkovec can make this offense multi-faceted, then this Pitt offense should flourish, and the defense will also look to star once again.
Tim Benz (ESPN Radio/Trib Review): 8-4. The Jurkovec factor is such a wild card. It’ll probably be more like 10-2 or 6-6 so I’ll just split the difference, so I look less wrong at season’s end.
Dave Wannstedt (Fox Sports/Former Pitt HC/Player): 8-4. I’m so excited to see Phil Jurkovec play. I remember his great first year at BC. If he plays close to that, Pitt will be competing for the ACC Championship.
Matt Hayes (National College Football Writer): 8-4. Jurkovec will play smarter, and I’m a believer in Charlie Partridge and his ability to develop edge guys.
Paul Zeise (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/93.7 FM “The Fan”): 9-3. Pitt has arrived as a legitimate program. The Panthers are young on defense, but the offense should be really good, and the defense will improve as the season goes on.
Harry Psaros (PghSportsNow): 9-3. Narduzzi has turned the corner and developed a legitimate program. I’m expecting exponential improvement on offense. Unlike last season, Pitt has a leader at quarterback with something to prove. The OL will be solid. I expect the wide receiver and tight end units to be upgraded as well (especially TEs). People are calling the defense suspect but I disagree. My focus will be on the defensive ends. If Pitt can generate a consistent pass rush, they’ll be in every game. I believe the linebacking corps will have a breakout year. The schedule is tough but this one of the most solid teams ‘top to bottom” of the Narduzzi era.
Austin Bechtold (Pgh Sports Now): 8-4. I could see 9-3, but the schedule is brutal. Jurkovec adds veteran stability with two playmaking wide receivers to make the offense better than last year. Facing North Carolina and Florida State at home is definitely a plus. I like the secondary a lot and some of the young players who could emerge on the defensive line. Narduzzi continues to prove others wrong and could do so again in the first season without the Coastal Division.
Chris Mack (93.7 FM The Fan): 9-3 and 3rd in the ACC. After a 6-1 start and a ranking as high as #12, back-to-back losses to Notre Dame and Florida State slow things down. Defense will again drive the bus. It’s what Narduzzi does. Jurkovec is good. Not the savior some think he is. But a damn sight better than Kedon Slovis. A Pinstripe Bowl win over Maryland to finish 10-3 and 15th in the country.
Chris Mueller (93.7 FM “The Fan”): 8-4. They’ll be a better team than last year, but I can’t help but think that an unexpected loss somewhere along the way will dampen what could otherwise be a very good season.
Alan Saunders (SteelersNow): 9-3. Three teams with good quarterbacks and talented rosters — ND, UNC and FSU — stand in the way. I think Pitt can beat at least one of them, and maybe even two, but I still don’t have faith in the Panthers consistently taking care of business against the lesser lights.
Brett McMurphy (Action Network): 7-5
Bob Pompeani (KDKA-TV): 9-3. Phil Jurkovec reunited with Frank Cignetti will lead to an offense that will get better as weeks go on. Their defense will be tested with UNC, FSU and ND. But while I look for them to win 2 of those 3, I also see an unexpected loss along the way.
Bill Bender (The Sporting News): 9-3. Pat Narduzzi has built a consistent winner. Take out the six-win COVID-19 impacted season, and Pitt has 28 wins between 2019 and the last two years. That’s a little more than nine wins per season. It’s OK to trust that consistency if transfer quarterback Phil Jurkovec can recapture the form that made him a star in 2020. Pitt has four seniors up front on defense, and you can trust defenses like that. It will be fun to watch Pitt rekindle a few Big East rivalries with Cincinnati and West Virginia – games the Panthers win. It’s on the Panthers to prove they can run with Drake Maye and that North Carolina offense after losing 42-24 last year, and the season hinges on the two-week stretch against Notre Dame and Florida State. Can the Panthers win one of those games against what should be top-10 teams and avoid an upset to an unranked team? We’ll stay on that average win total.
Eric MacLain (ACC Network): “8-5 possible 9th in the bowl game. Think they can push past that with extraordinary QB play. OL and Run game should be sweet. Pass catchers have to step up and be consistent. Defense is going to be nasty.”
Andrew Stockey (WTAE-TV): 8-4. “While there are many unknowns, we do know QB Phil Jurkovec is a known commodity as the Panthers start their third quarterback in the last three season. A split of the two-game gauntlet featuring Notre Dame and Florida State would be huge in getting this team to a ninth win.”
Jenna Harner (WPXI-TV): My prediction is they go 8-4. All camp/preseason we’ve been hearing about the potential of this offense to really be explosive. If they can live up to that hype and deliver, they should find success. Also don’t be surprised by the emergence of freshman WR Kenny Johnson throughout the year.
Joe Starkey (93.7 FM The Fan): “7-5. I have losses to NC, ND and FSU. Can the Panthers go 8-1 against the rest of their schedule, as some here would have you believe? Only if Phil Jurkovec is really, really good. I’d say 7-2 against the rest is more realistic. A bowl win would raise the victory total to 8 in a year of major personnel transition.”
Rich Walsh (KDKA-TV): “Pitt is 8-4. I think they can be better but it depends on Phil Jurkovec and the offense. I have the Panthers starting the season 3-0 with a win at WVU. I think you will see one or two let down games and an upset win at Notre Dame.”
Chris Peak (Pantherlair.com): “8-4. It just feels like there are too many questions – the QB’s spotty resume, the unproven skill players on offense, six new starters on defense. They should be good enough to get 8 wins here with a shot at 9 in a bowl game, but a few games will likely get away from them.”
Mike Vukovcan (Pgh Sports Now): “9-3. Pat Narduzzi and his coaches have shown the ability to develop talent, no matter the level, and that’ll be the case again this season. Pitt will finish in the top-tier of the ACC. Some players that I look to have big seasons are Bub Means, Gavin Bartholomew, Solomon Deshields, Sean FitzSimmons and Javon McIntyre.”