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2012 Big East Previews: Pittsburgh with Cardiac Hill

We’re previewing the college football season with help from SBNation.com. Today, Anson from Cardiac Hill talks Pittsburgh.

Paul Chryst enters his first year as head coach and the Panthers are seeking their fifth-straight bowl appearance. The Panthers must survive a difficult road schedule in 2012, including trips to Cincinnati, Notre Dame and USF. Senior Day will prove to be a battle as they host Rutgers on Nov. 24.

2011 Record: 6-7

2011 Bowl: BBVA Compass Bowl vs. SMU, 6-28

2012 Bowl Projections:

Orlando Bowl History

1978 Tagerine Bowl vs. NC State, 17-30
2001 Tangerine Bowl vs. NC State, 19-34

Q&A with Anson from Cardiac Hill

Describe the 2011 season in two words.

Utter chaos

Paul Chryst inherits a nearly full offense. Will he be able to implement a Wisconsin-style rushing attack in his first year?

The running game is expected to be the bread and butter of the offense. Ray Graham was leading all of college football in rushing when he went down with a knee injury last year and also returning is sophomore Isaac Bennett, who's had an unbelievable spring and fall training camp. When you throw in five-star recruit Rushel Shell, the Panthers could have one of the best backfields in the nation in terms of talent. But the offensive line is still growing and with a year-long suspension to tackle Juantez Hollins (who was pegged to be a starter), the unit is pretty green. Because of that, the running game may be good, but I'm not sure it will rival what he had in Wisconsin just yet.

On paper, what looks like the toughest game this season?

Right now, I'd say it's probably a toss-up between Pitt's home game against Virginia Tech or the road contest at Notre Dame. If you twisted my arm, I might say Virginia Tech just because it's only the third game of the season and at that time, Pitt will still be trying to find itself as a team. The final game at South Florida also gets an honorable mention because I think the Bulls will be better than they're given credit for right now.

Is there extra incentive to win the Big East in their final year, or are most Panther fans already looking ahead to joining the ACC in 2013?

Many fans are already waiting for next season, but I've personally said that they really need to focus on this year and try to wrap up a BCS berth. Pitt is going to have a much more difficult time trying to win the ACC and without West Virginia hanging around this season, the Big East is really up for grabs. At least half the conference can make a legitimate claim to having a chance to win it and after underachieving time and again, the Panthers need to step up and make this year count.

Best case/worst case scenario for the postseason.

Best case scenario is clearly the BCS and in a weakened Big East, Pitt definitely has the talent to at least compete for it. I don't see them missing out on the postseason altogether, but worst case scenario is probably a third straight trip to the BBVA Compass Bowl. No offense to the good folks of Birmingham, but we're sick of seeing them and I'm sure they're sick of seeing us.

One Question In The Other Direction

Could you give us a list of the most important things the committee is looking for when it picks a team?

Answered by Director of Digital Media Matt Repchak: There’s a bunch of different criteria that our selection committee members consider, and we don’t mandate that any one item be given more weight than others year-to-year. The most important things are team performance – who they beat and who they didn’t. We break that down a little bit further into home vs. away, record vs. ranked teams and common opponents, etc. Beyond that, we also consider some tangential items such as history (or lack thereof) in Orlando, recent bowl appearances or fan excitement. Sometimes one team and its fans can be so psyched about coming to our game that it makes the difference between they and another team with a comparable on-field resume. A lot of reporting in November and December focuses on ticket sales, but it’s somewhat misleading. We don’t talk in the room about ticket sales. We DO talk about putting together a matchup that is compelling for both sets of traveling fans as well as Orlando residents. We want to put on a game that people want to see, so “ticket sales” is somewhat reductive compared to those intentions. First and foremost, though, wins and losses are what gets a team on our radar.

About The Author

Jared Gallagher
Jared Gallagher