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Pat Narduzzi on Perception of ACC in Non-Con Games: ‘It’s A Pride Thing’



Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi and West Virginia head coach Neal Brown. ACC-Big 12.

If you poll the general college football populous, the SEC and Big Ten usually garner the most respect. And then the Big 12 and soon-to-be-defunct Pac-12. And then the ACC.

The national perception of the ACC, for whatever reason, isn’t very good. But after a strong start to the 2023 season from the ACC, Pat Narduzzi is ready to show that the ACC isn’t to be taken lightly this season — even with Clemson off to a slow start.

“I think there’s a respect factor,” Narduzzi said at his weekly presser Thursday. “Great win by Mack Brown down at North Carolina, great win by coach (Mike) Norvell at Florida State. I was excited for those guys. You hear so much about how much money they can get. The whole offseason is about how much money they can make. Well, how about winning the football games?

“That’s what it’s all about. But my hat goes off to Norvell, and those are big wins. I think it’s a pride thing. Some people think the Big 12 is bigger than the ACC right now. Well, it’s our chance right now on the field to prove that. They’ve got numbers, but I’ll take our quality in the ACC.”

Pitt has a chance to take two games from the Big 12 over the next two weekends now.

Cincinnati comes to town this weekend for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff at Acrisure Stadium, renewing the River City Rivalry, which has been dormant for the last 11 seasons. And then Pitt will travel to Morgantown, W.Va. for the Backyard Brawl, a 7:30 p.m. kickoff under the lights at Milan-Puskar Stadium.

Both games are pivotal for Pitt. There’s the chance to hold an undefeated record entering ACC play, with two rivalry wins to boot, and the chance to continue the ACC’s success against other Power Five conferences early this season.

North Carolina started it off with a 31-17 win at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. last Saturday, and Florida State ran away in the second half against No. 5 LSU, throttling the Tigers 45-24 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida Sunday.

And while Clemson did lose 28-7 Monday night in Durham, North Carolina, it was the Duke Blue Devils, a rising ACC program over the last season and a half, that knocked off the Tigers and entered the AP Poll this week.

The ACC may not boast the biggest TV deal or the most College Football Playoff contenders, but it’s a conference that boasts some very good academic and athletic programs. And it added a few new programs in Cal and Stanford from the Pac-12 and SMU from the AAC. If the ACC is still viewed unfavorably after the most recent round of realignment, Narduzzi has an easy way to fix it.

“You can prove that on the field,” Narduzzi said. “You can add whoever you want. We can go add UConn and all these other schools. Does that make you better? It’s about adding quality things that make sense. To me, the SEC did the best job because they still got a regional opponent that makes sense when you look at a map, and you put all these schools on a map, you go, ‘That makes sense.’ And they got quality, too.”

Pitt’s chance to prove it comes against a Cincinnati squad that is two seasons removed from a CFP appearance. And with a win in Morgantown, Pitt will start a winning streak of West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl. The other non-conference opponent, if it’s truly considered non-conference, will be Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

The ACC went 8-2 in non-conference games (2-1 in Power Five non-con) in Week 1, with Virginia and Boston College suffering losses, and the conference will have six Power Five opportunities this week. Narduzzi and Pitt will look to help lead the ACC to another winning week.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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