Although University of Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi might suggest he’s not fully satisfied with his Panthers final 8-4 regular season record, there’s no question that the program has taken a signficant step in the right direction in his first year at the helm.
That’s because the eight-win season follows four straight 6-6 campaigns that would end with invitations to bowl games that even the most die-hard Pitt fan would have trouble getting up for. This included back-to-back trips to Birmingham, Alabama for the BBVA Compass Bowl and of course, who can ever forget the reward of a trip to Detroit to play in the Little Caesar’s Bowl?
This time around the Panthers are a lock to receive an invite to a bowl that will be a major upgrade in terms of quality of opponent and destination.
Based on projections, it looks like Panthers will end up at one of four bowls once the invites flow in this coming weekend. Let’s take a look at the possible destinations along with opponents and for fun, give odds on where they go.
Pinstripe Bowl (ACC vs. Big Ten) How about making everyone happy and set up a Pitt-Penn State bowl match up in the city that never sleeps? No, that would make way too much sense, and due to the fact that the Pinstripe has made it clear that do not want to have repeat invitees (PSU played there last season) that’s not going to happen.
That means another middling Big Ten team would get the invite and the two bowl eligible teams from the conference that are most likely would be either 6-6 Indiana or Minnesota, who comes in with a 5-7 record. Not exactly intriguing options, but New York City is as good as it gets and is an easy trip for those willing to travel to see a game the day after Christmas. Odds it’s the Pinstripe: 2-1
Music City Bowl (ACC vs. SEC) What about a trip to Nashville and a game against an SEC opponent on December 30? Hard not to love the possibility of playing against Georgia, Texas A&M or even Arkansas in a town that once again, is an attractive destination for Pitt fans. This game would give Pitt a change to prove it’s a program on the upswing, as win against the mighty SEC would allow the program to end a high note in Music City. Odds: 5-1
Sun Bowl (ACC vs. Pac-10) How about El Paso the day after Christmas? Excuse me if I immediately get flashbacks to arguably one of the worst bowls games in memory happening at the Sun Bowl (Oregon State 3, Pitt 0) but once Pitt fans get beyond that, the potential Pac-12 invitee will be a quality football team that will provide plenty of challenges for Narduzzi’s Panthers. Playing UCLA for instance, would be a late Christmas gift. Odds: 5-1
Taxslayer Bowl (ACC vs. SEC) I would be willing to bet that Pitt would love to get an invite to play an SEC opponent at the Taxslayer Bowl in Jacksonville on January 2. Not only could the Panthers end up playing a team like Tennessee or even LSU, they would get a trip to Florida along with the most time to prepare of any of the games, something the coaches would love.
It’s a long trip for Panthers fans, but heading for the sunshine and getting a chance to see them play a quality SEC team might make it worth it. Sadly, this one is the long shot in my eyes. Odds: 10-1