Sunday, November 22, 2009

Two Games to Go

On the bye week, I found myself asking this question - at what point would I be satisfied this season? As I debated the answer, another question entered the picture - what would constitute a successful season?

These questions are as different as night and day in my opinion. Here's what I came up with.

At this point in the season, 9-1 has obviously exceeded all expectations. No reasonable Pitt fan could have predicted this kind of overachieving success. Even Rocky Balboa thinks Pitt has played over their heads. And even if you argue that Pitt's talent could have been enough to get them to 9-1 (which I think it is), how many times has Pitt disappointed over the years, losing to teams they should beat, etc? They even couldn't resist the urge to play beneath the competition once this year, but at least it's only happened once. At this point, I think it's pretty clear that only a trip to the BCS game would be satisfying. I also think if they got there and had another apocalyptic collapse (see Utah) by, say, losing to Alabama by 30, that would be a huge disappointment. Another blowout in a BCS game would really look bad for Pitt and help negate so much of the positive energy that's been built up.

Regarding a successful season, Pitt desperately needs to get to ten wins. Even if they lose to WVU AND Cincinnati, but can come back and win a bowl game, to get to ten wins would be nice. Admit it - coming into the season, many fans would have probably settled for nine. Sure it may be harder to call it a success if Pitt happened to drop both of their remaining games, but looking at the big picture, a 10-3 season isn't so bad. Both remaining games are winnable but it's possible to lose both as well. And one more thing...

While it's nice that the Gator Bowl is back in play for the conference with Notre Dame doing their best 1951 L.A. Dodgers impersonation, remember that Pitt can still very easily fall to third. Losses to the couchburners and Cincy coupled with a WVU win over Rutgers will make that a reality. Additionally, the Gator Bowl can also select a 7-5 Notre Dame team over a 9-3 Big East team. So if WVU happens to finish second, they could still be bumped to the Car Care Bowl, forcing Pitt to, *gulp*, the bowl.

It's very important that Pitt win at least one of those games. While a BCS bowl is the ultimate goal, a Gator Bowl bid wouldn't be the worst thing in the world...

That would be the Car Care bowl.


  1. Why do you think "no reasonable PITT fan" could have predicted 9-1 at this point? You must not read the message boards as a lot of fans thought PITT would be 10-2 or 11-1 on the season.

  2. By reasonable, I meant rational. There are Pitt fans that say the team will be 10-2 or 11-1 every year. If you asked those same people, though, to put money on it, there's no way they would. Pitt hasn't had a one loss season in about 30 years. Why would they think this would be the year on the heels of a 3-0 bowl loss to a mediocre team, a QB controversy at the beginning of the season, and the loss of Shady who was their best player?

    I have no doubt that some fans that could have predicted 9-1 (just as I'm sure there are some that would have predicted 12-0 and a national championship), but I don't think anyone felt strongly enough to sincerely believe it. And if they did feel that way, I guarantee that would be the type of fan that would say it every year.

    Things have worked out very well and I'll admit this team has a lot of talent. But if you're telling me that someone could have predicted such a great year and sincerely meant it, I don't know if I buy that.

  3. Reed,

    I must agree with Lee and I just don't buy it, look up what the beat writers predicted, they were leaning 8-4 with a very good defense.

    The credit for this year has to go to Cignetti and his coaching of the offense. Please note there are two games left, hopefully we win both or split and have a shot at a half decent bowl because if it comes down to looking at fan support Pitt just does not travel well.

  4. I don't know... I figured around 9-3 at the end of regular season and knew the last two games would be the toughest so 9-1 at this point was about what I thought, and I don't think I'm alone with this line of thinking. They were some reasonable posters on the boards thinking along the same lines.

    But if you're referencing how really strong PITT is at this point, I can see your point - that is a bit surprising.

    Which is two different things... the difference between what a team's record is and how good they actually are.

    I'll be more than happy if my prediction is wrong however.

    BTW - IMO McKillop was the Panther's "best" player last season and has been the hardest to replace. I'm not alone in thinking that McCoy's production - while impressive - could be replaced by virtue of the system PITT runs. I just figured it would have been done by two players. Cignetti's arrival and the maturation of the passing game is an added bonus in my mind.

  5. Going by harder to replace, it's clear that McKillop was more valuable. There hasn't been any downgrade in running this year due to

    Lewis' monster season. Gunn has played extremely well in the middle, though, in McKillop's absence.

    That's actually a good question - who is missed the most from last year's team? Without hesitating, I'd say it's Conor Lee. Hutchins has been okay, but Conor was dead on.

    11-1 is not only possible, you can make the argument that the Panthers should be favored in both games with Cincinnati at home.

  6. Lee - Conner lee was a good one no doubt, but here's where perception comes into play... Dan Hutchins has exactly the same success percentage as Lee did during his career - 83.3%. What is surprising is that they also have just about the same percentage of successful tries over 40 yards ... Lee actually leads that by 68% to 60%.

    I think the way PITT fans view the two is interesting in that we tend to over inflated how well Lee did and Hutchins had big shoes to fill, so as soon as he missed a couple we thought he wasn't as good as Lee.

    Lee scored more points per season than Hutchins but that's actually a good thing for PITT as we are finishing off more drives by TD then we have in past years.

  7. That's a good point on the percentages. I knew they were close, but not that close.

    One thing I will say, though, is that you may have seen instances this season when Pitt would go for it on fourth downs instead of trying a longer field goal. I can think of at least one off the top of my head - the Louisville game. They went for it early in the game (and didn't get it) on something like 4th and 5 instead of kicking about a 45 yard field goal. Not saying Pitt didn't go for it on 4th downs while Conor was there, but that's at least one instance where you could say he might have been called to kick instead of Pitt going for it.

    Hutchins also has missed a couple of XPs this year while Lee never missed one. Those points didn't cost us any games, so it's kind of a moot point.

    But I might have to rethink the position of which player is missed the most. Hutchins has definitely been pretty solid.