Jan 2, 2015; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers running back James Conner (24) goes in for 5-yard touchdown against the Houston Cougars during the second half of the 2015 Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Houston won 35-34. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
New Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi and staff have certainly caused a buzz and re-energized the Pitt football program. The PITT script is back for good, as Narduzzi changed the helmet at the College Football Hall of Fame. New uniforms will follow for the 2016 season.
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Pitt has not landed any new commitments since my last post awhile back, but I can assure you that this staff is targeting elite prospects, both locally and across the country. I’ve been screaming for years that Pitt needed to target top QB prospects regardless of location, and this staff is doing it.
The latest movement on Twitter is the #412Crew, where the staff is generating excitement over recruits from all over the country to jump aboard the 412 Crew. We’ll see how it goes, but from the looks of my Twitter timeline, Narduzzi is impressing local high school football coaches and bringing in loads of talent to Pitt’s camps.
I am more excited about this staff than any of the previous staffs since I started watching Pitt back in 1996 at the age of 10. Coach Narduzzi has been talking to Pitt alumni in Washington DC, Philadelphia, Fort Lauderdale, and Atlanta. Does he sleep?
I will not discuss the roster or game by game predictions yet, but I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 games that I am looking forward to next season:
5. @ Akron: You may think, why? I was at Heinz Field last year when Pitt was upset by the Zips. I was not happy, along with 95% of the rest of the stadium attendees. I am excited about this game because it spells REVENGE in my mind. The past is the past, but I expect Pitt to throw Akron around and make a statement that this is a new, physical brand of Pitt football. I hate former AD Steve Pederson’s scheduling of Youngstown State and Akron back-to-back because you cannot gain much by playing these types of teams. I give this game a nod over the opener, even though Narduzzi leads his team out to face his hometown team in Youngstown State.
4. Notre Dame: I always look forward to Pitt having the opportunity to defeat a Brian Kelly coached team. I still am bitter from years ago when Pitt missed an extra point and blew a large lead to a Kelly Cincinnati squad, resulting in the loss of a Big East title. Pitt also blew an opportunity to knock off an undefeated Notre Dame team who would go on to get smacked by Alabama. Pitt has played Notre Dame well and fairly close in recent years, as these games are always exciting. I expect this game to be exciting at Heinz Field, and I always enjoy watching Pitt beat the Irish in front of a sellout crowd.
With the First Pick
3. @ Duke: Two years ago, Pitt won at Duke 58-55, as Tom Savage threw 6 touchdown passes. This past season, Pitt missed a game-winning field goal attempt and would go on to lose in overtime at Heinz Field. Duke football has been much improved, and I believe this is one team that will compete for the ACC Coastal title. If Pitt wants to win the Coastal, I think they’ll have to knock off the Blue Devils on the road, and they certainly have the weapons to do so.
2. Louisville: Pitt will welcome the Cardinals to Heinz Field, in a renewal of former Big East powers. Louisville football has been good since Charlie Strong (now at Texas) built them up. They were 5-3 in the ACC Atlantic last season, finishing behind Florida State and Clemson. In this ACC crossover battle, I expect this to be one of the most physical, exciting games on the schedule. This game could also have implications on who makes it to the ACC Title game.
1. @ Georgia Tech: Pitt will travel to Georgia to square off against last season’s ACC Coastal champs. I put this game as my most exciting game because I think the winner of this contest will be playing in the ACC Championship game. Last season, Pitt turned the ball over on its first five possessions, falling 56-28. The offense couldn’t hold the ball and the defense couldn’t stop anyone. Narduzzi will not tolerate that on either side of the ball, and this should be a closer battle than last year. With Pitt having the ACC Player of the Year in RB James Conner, as well as the top projected WR in the NFL draft next season in Tyler Boyd, no team that Pitt faces will have as much talent at those two positions. The key to Pitt’s success this upcoming season will likely fall on the quarterback position, as well as the secondary.
I have been optimistic in the past, but I think this is the year Pitt makes some noise, as this was the youngest team in college football last season. With much more experience and a head coach who helped Michigan State defeat Baylor in the Cotton Bowl, I cannot find a reason why a Pitt fan would be pessimistic about this season.
As we move closer towards the season, I’ll discuss projected starting lineups, a season preview with predictions, and continued updates on new commitments.