What Really Matters to Pitt in 2017

What Really Matters to Pitt in 2017

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.

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How National Media Think About Pitt

How National Media Think About Pitt

We have a continuing argument on here about the impact of last year’s 31-26 bowl loss on Pitt’s national reputation after the 2016 season’s dust had settled.  More importantly perhaps is what impact all of last season’s games, won and lost, had on the national media’s perception of our program going into this 2017 season. 

But wait – let me backtrack a bit here.  This isn’t about Pitt’s football program per se – but is about how the national media viewed the Pitt football team at the end of 2016, then again now and how the team might be gauged going into battle in September.

The people on the Southside I had conversations with when attending spring practices three months ago sure felt… no, they sure knew… that the bowl loss cost us dearly in perceptions and in the actual standings.   By that I mean not only the final 2016 standings but our 2017 preseason rank (or lack thereof).

Here is the AP Final Top 25 list for last year:

abab

I believe that had we won the bowl game combined with our big PSU rivalry win (which is a match-up of historical importance to the national media) and win over #3 ranked Clemson; both games nationally televised and both teams finishing high in the final rankings with one as champs, we would have been ranked between #13 and #17 at the end of the season.

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Here’s Hoping for the Best…

Here’s Hoping for the Best…

This is the season which we all believe will start to show Narduzzi’s worth as a recruiter but there is something other than that being overlooked there – this is also the year we are going to see just how well Narduzzi’s position coaches and coordinators have done at teaching our young players they inherited to become full-time starters.

We fans tend to look back at recruit rankings and forget that they don’t mean squat unless there is a staff in place to take that raw talent and make it really work at the D1 & Power Five level.  This is especially true at the OL positions. 

Pitt’s history (and every other D1 program’s) is lettered with recruits that came onboard with high potential and great expectations only to become backups, bench warmers or kids that didn’t make it a full four year’s in the program. Some just didn’t have what it takes, some didn’t care to work hard and some may not have had good enough position coaches to teach them how to play at this level.

As far as Pitt 2017 playing time experience goes when you look at the two-deep on the chart below you’ll see that 15 of the starting 22 positions are still manned by Paul Chryst recruits, and I don’t care what this list says Wirginis will start the YSU game at MLB – how long he stays there is another question.  So we will see some of Narduzzi’s new recruits get playing time – mostly on defense where we need the most help.

HCPN’s position coaches have now had three years to work with those PC recruits to fit smoothly into his offensive and defensive philosophies and it will be interesting to see how well they will fair as full-time starters this season. Those now-starters would be MLB Wirginis, C Dintino, RT Jared Jones-Smith, DE Allen Edwards,  Money LB Ziese, S Briggs and CB Motley.

Pittsburgh Sports Now reported that Pitt has released the pre-Fall Camp depth chart. Hmmm, more like “These are the only viable players who can play this position” chart.  When you have only 10 of 22 starting positions returning there has to be a heavy dose of wishful think on fan’s (and the staff’s) parts to get back up to the level of play of the year before. We’ll see that writ large in trying to match the record breaking offense we had in 2016.

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Hot Off the Press; POV Roundtable for 7/12/17

Hot Off the Press; POV Roundtable for 7/12/17

 

We had a blast with the call-in show last night and again we proved that no matter who shows up at the Roundtable we are the most knowledgeable Pitt fans in existence.  Of course that is facetious as I’ve met many fans through other venues who know a ton about Pitt football also.

The civil tone was lowered just a smidgen from last week with both Ike and the infamous Dr. Tom coming onboard.  I’m ordering a cut-off button today for future short-story answers to pretty simple and plain questions.

Some items discussed were:

The role of Pitt’s AD and how we feel Heather Lyke is doing… and what she needs to do.

Did Scott Barnes leave the department in good shape?

How we would feel if we had a third consecutive season with 8-5 including a bowl loss.

The D1 Learfield Directors Cup standings; this lists the comparisons of all D1 schools in all sports (not just the 128 in football). 

Cup 2

Pitt finished an abysmal 92nd place over all (above) and next to last in the ACC conference (below).  Thus the questions above of what AD Lykes has ahead of her.

Cup 1

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2017’s WRs; Upgrade, Downgrade or Draw

This is the seventh of a longer POV series looking at the individual positions which need to be re-filled in 2017 and whether we will meet the PRODUCTION we had in those positions in ’16. We will not factor in true freshman at this point.

Wide Receiver will be a position of strength for us in this coming season almost surely.  I say that because as we wrote about the QB position early in this series I think we’ll have a downgrade there – so the ripple effect may impact the overall production of our WR corps for ’17.

To start let’s look at who departed Pitt over the off-season.  rsSR Dontez Ford and rsJR Zach Challingsworth.  Well, that was pretty simple wasn’t it? 

Of course our main WR coming back is the exciting and inconsistent – which is part of the excitement because we hold our breath hoping he’ll come down with the ball – rsSR Jester Weah.

Weah is a great example of kids who are just average in their recruiting rating (3*, 5.5) and don’t burst right out of the gate in college… but learn the new game and flourish in their upperclassmen years.  And yes, that is what a good player will do. 

Great players usually do make an impact earlier and Weah may have also if he hadn’t been stuck behind Tyler Boyd and Dontez Ford for his first few years.  But for now he’s pretty darn good and may just be great this season.

Weah has had the catching yips and was publicly open and refreshingly honest about that which I like him even more for.  He has great downfield speed and good moves – but his hands used to let him down when it came to gameday.  More on that later…

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POV: What Could Have Been

Here is a quick hitter from a reader and commenter,”PittinClearwater” who submitted a piece to get some conversational juices flowing.

 What would have happened if Pitt had joined Penn State in the late 80’s to form the Eastern Eight? It is a good question to ponder in the down-time prior to the Pitt-Northwestern bowl game.

Here is a bit from a older article in the Allentown Morning Call paper that lays out some background to this question:

Thirty years are but a blink to the landmass we live on, but in the timeline of college football they encompass ages and epochs.

Consider this: In 1981, Penn State coach Joe Paterno very nearly brokered a deal with several East Coast universities to create an all-sports conference. It was his dream to live and play in a world of newly negotiable television contracts and traditional, regional rivalries.

But then the details got in the way, and the disagreements became spats. Today, the negotiators differ on the terms of their parted ways, though they agree on one theme: College football’s road to today began partly with Paterno, the Big East and the never-was, but still lamented, Eastern Conference.

The obituary of Paterno’s proposal was dredged this past weekend, when the Atlantic Coast Conference welcomed the University of Pittsburgh and Syracuse as its 13th and 14th members. Fed up with the Big East’s increasing football irrelevancy, proactive Pitt and Syracuse found an equally proactive partner in the ACC, which seeks to remain afloat in the relevant waters of college football.

The head-spinning conference makeovers likely won’t end until four superpowers remain. Which begs the question: Would Paterno’s Eastern Conference have been one of them?

Here are the schools which were under consideration for the new Eastern Conference in the early 1980s:

Pitt

Penn State

West Virginia

Syracuse

Boston College

Temple

Rutgers

Virginia Tech  (or would it have been University of Cincinnati or the University of Miami?)

PSU would have been the driving force and with seven required conference games per year it would have allowed PSU to schedule four other games (at that time the NCAA limited football schedules to 11 games in a regular season), so a larger conference would not have worked for them nor, I believe, have made all these ex-independents happy.

Some traditional rivalries would have been kept but the rest of the college football world would have moved on as we know it.  In 1991, the South West Conference started to fall apart and thus a new round of realignment began.

In looking at the final AP standings from the 1985 season to the 1995 season Penn State would have been the big dog among the group.  If Miami had been the 8th member, they most probably would have given Penn State the best competition PSU faced in those days. Remember that was when Miami was “Thug U’ and winning lots of games.

However, I believe the Eastern Eight schools listed above would still have had the same problem the Big East ended up with in having Miami being out there as an non-conference Independent school.  Miami would have  been targeted by the Atlantic Coast Conference to persuade them to join up with them….  and we saw that exact thing happen in 2005.

So fellow Pitt fans, what do you think would happen when the early years of the 21st Century rolled around?  The South Eastern Conference (SEC) would still expand and The Big 12 would become the Big 12 (now with only 10 schools actually).

And we well know what transpired with the Big Ten; they expanded eastward for the money that would be generated by TV and cable viewership in those big-city markets and thus sacrificed athletic and academic quality in their members to do so.

So then, here is what I think would have happened.

Let’s assume Virginia Tech and not Miami is in the new Eastern Eight. All the other moves would remain the same. The Big Ten offers Penn State, Syracuse and BC membership in 2011 to become the 14 member conference they are now.

The ACC accepts Miami and VT and Maryland would have remain a member.  For Pitt’s athletics we would end up with WVU, Louisville and Cincinnati in the new Big 12 and TCU then is the odd man out and is the big loser.

How do you guys see things panning out had that proposed conference become a reality…?

Note: Here is a NY Times article that helps explain how the Big East came to be back in the day…

Edit by Reed: Here is how one media outlet envisioned a future B12 (14) as recently as 2012:

Image result for conference expansion