A voice from the past, Kevin Gorman of the Tribune Review, used to be the Pitt football beat writer and a reporter who I always made sure to read every word he put out because I thought he was that good and very detailed.
He’s back with a piece looking at our 2017 season’s ultimate goal.
In this Trib article Gorman makes a point that The POV has been singing all along since Pat Narduzzi became the head coach of Pitt, and that was the main goal of any season is to win the ACC Coastal and then the ACC Championship. That is the only way we have a chance to be in the football playoffs at the end of the season. Anything else is nice but an unfulfilled season.
I love that 2016 Penn State win I love our Clemson upset also, but the bald fact is that if we don’t get it done in the ACC matches we’re not fulfilling the mandate that Pat Narduzzi has been given as a head coach at Pitt…play championship football.
The question going into Year Three of Narduzzi’s tenure is if he can pull that off. To which I say “sure he can” – if he’s what we think he is as a head coach.
There is a big disconnect from how the Pitt fans view the football program and how the coaches, staff and players view the football program. We fans love those emotional wins, and those two great OOC wins last year were certainly emotional and were great to watch. But, and there is always a “but” involved when comes to Pitt football, in the long run they didn’t really advance the program as much as a championship would. Any type of championship.
We on the POV discussed the lingering positive ramifications, or lack of, with those two OOC wins in an article and discussion about a month ago and in that I said that over the offseason and after we ended 2016 on a bowl loss that mitigated some of the impact of those big wins.
What a post-season bowl win last would have done also is soften our lack of winning a division championship – and we were damned close to doing that – only one win away actually.
I still believe that today. It’s a whole different world when you can go into an offseason and then into the preseason with the impending preseason polls and have the voters of those polls look at Pitt as being the returning and defending champions of the Coastal Division or of the ACC.
That is a label that automatically jumps a team up in the coaches’ eyes and they’re going to vote accordingly. Ratings matter folks. They matter in weekly publicity, in recruiting, in TV broadcast selections, in the quality of the Bowl selections and they matter in the perceived value of the program.
The Panthers were proud to boast that they beat the ACC and Big Ten champions — and were the only team to defeat the eventual national champion Tigers.
If you think Pat Narduzzi is beating his chest about those wins, think again. The third-year Pitt coach is singing a different tune.
“I want to win an ACC championship,” Narduzzi said Tuesday. “I would gladly give up the Penn State and Clemson wins to win the ACC championship.”
The Panthers start the season with FCS runner-up Youngstown State, followed by preseason No. 6 Penn State and No. 11 Oklahoma State — all three games without one of their top players, junior safety Jordan Whitehead — yet Narduzzi is using motivational methods such as breaking down practice on the chant, “ACC champs!”
“Taking it to the next level (is harder),” Narduzzi said, “because a target is on your back, and I have to do it with different guys. That’s the nature of college football. You have to do it with a new team.”
It is an excuse making exercise to disregard the national impact polls have in placing a program into the Top 25 at the end of the season. It is a hell of a lot easier for a team coming of a ranking to be already ranked going into September, even if it is at the lower end of the list. Then it is also easier to stay on the Top 25 through out the season as long as Pitt wins more games than the others.
As of now Pitt is unranked nationally save one poll that has us at #25 – the majority of polls I have seen have us between #32 and #45. That is as stated above not a position of strength to start the season with.
The schools which are unranked early on have to really put on a strong and impressive run to try to get into that coveted #15 and above mark when they go into the offseason. It helps immensely in recruiting if you can do it from a nationally ranked position and is especially helpful because when the season is over a lot of the blue-chip recruits make their school commitment choices.
So I will reiterate that the prime goal has to be to win the ACC Coastal Division then the ACC Conference championship. Now that is pretty easy to say and the thought pops up that of course it is, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want those great OOC wins either and that is true also.
But I am really talking about the fan’s point of view here. I read so often that the PSU game and the Clemson game make up for the one point loss to North Carolina or the three point loss to Virginia Tech…
But that isn’t true especially with the Virginia Tech game as you can see above. if we had won that game, and we well could have, we’d have taken the division with at 5-2 and holding a tie breaking win over VT. From there we would have had a second match up with the then 12-1 Clemson… and yes, lightning sure can strike twice.
Even if we lost that ACC championship game we would have had, I believe, a great national awareness and even more importantly a greater conference awareness along the states which the ACC schools are located in – and by no coincidence that is exactly where Pitt.s expanded recruiting target areas are located.
Because a division championship didn’t happen we fell back on hoping for a bowl win to get us to to 9-4 and then ranked as high as #15 (by my figuring). If we could have grabbed that then Narduzzi and his recruiting staff could leverage a very nice progression from last year’s unranked 8-5 and bowl loss season and been able to point to Pitt as truly being on the rise.
So Narduzzi isn’t blowing smoke above – he’s being very honest in saying the Division and Conference championships are the goal and that’s not just to say we did it – but to be able to point to that and say we are the best team in one of the best Power Five conferences – so let’s hope we can pull that out this season.
We fans, but especially the staff and players, can’t get too down if we get beaten by those two very good teams in PSU and Oklahoma state early on. it will hurt – but really won’t mean all that much if we grab the brass ACC ring at the end of the season.
It will be a very tough task and a hell of a lot of things have to fall into place to make it happen but if Narduzzi is the coach we think he is it is reachable.