Nov. 3, 2012; South Bend, IN, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Tino Sunseri (12) talks to his teammates in the huddle in the second quarter against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 29-26 in triple overtime. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE

Panthers fighting for bowl lives vs. UConn on Friday night

On the same day that Jamie Dixon and the Pitt men’s basketball team tip-off their 2012-13 season, Paul Chryst and the Pitt football team face one of their biggest games of the season at Connecticut.

Normally a Pitt-UConn Friday night matchup wouldn’t be classified as a big game in any stretch of the imagination, but this is a big game for the Panthers as their bowl lives ride on a win tonight.

October 27, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Paul Chryst reacts on the sidelines against the Temple Owls during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Pitt must win two of their final three games to become bowl eligible and tonight vs. the Huskies and the season finale at South Florida give them their best opportunity to do so. Sandwiched in between those two games is a home meeting with Rutgers, a team that is not only 7-1, but a team that Pitt always has a hard time with.

That makes tonight’s showdown against the Huskies an absolute must-win situation.

Sitting at 4-5, the Panthers must get to six wins to become bowl eligible, but that doesn’t guarantee them anything, but it is doubtful if they are eligible that a bowl will turn down a team from an automatic-qualifying conference such as the Big East.

Looking at Big East Conference bowl agreements, if the Panthers can get to the required six wins, their only two real destinations are likely the Pinstripe Bowl in New York or another trip to the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.

Those two bowls have fourth and fifth selection, respectively, of the eligible Big East teams. There’s still a slight chance that the Panthers could jump up into the top three and earn a bid to the Belk Bowl, but that is doubtful at this point as Pitt would have to win out and hope for some luck along the way.

The Pinstripe Bowl in New York would be nice for Pitt, but the only likely way they get there is if Syracuse doesn’t become bowl eligible as that would be a natural destination for the Orange. In addition to playing somewhere different than Alabama, the Pinstripe Bowl is a Big East No. 4 vs. Big 12 No. 7 game and it could possibly pit the Panthers against rival West Virginia, especially if the Mountaineers keep struggling.

But that is all speculation right now as Pitt has to start taking care of business on the field or they will soon see their bowl chances slip away.

While there has been a lot of talk of bowl eligibility as of late, all focus seems to be on Connecticut.

“Yeah, but we’ve got to get this one [at UConn] to get six. This is big,” left guard Chris Jacobson said to the Post-Gazette. “These seniors want to have an extra game with a bowl game, but we’ve got to get this one to get to six. Our whole focus this week is turning the page and playing UConn.”

That makes Friday night’s game the biggest one so far in the Chryst era.

The Panthers have shown the ability to play good football at times, but have had problems putting together consistent efforts week-to-week as this season has been an amusement park ride.

We will see if this team comes out with some desperation and closes the season strong.

If they don’t there will be no bowl and senior quarterback Tino Sunseri will have to look for someone else to blame.

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Tags: Paul Chryst Pittsburgh Panthers Football

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