This is the fourth of five questions we’re debating to preview and prepare for the 2016 Pitt football season. Lucky for us, some of our #PittTwitter friends were kind enough to contribute their thoughts for each question.
Today we try and define what success means for Pitt in the 2016 season, whether it be a certain win total, wins against specific teams, division championship, conference championship, specific bowl game, or something else. Be sure to listen to our mini episode at the end of the post after you read through what our panel has to say, and check out our previous editions if you haven’t already!
- Question 1: What do you expect to see from James Conner
- Question 2: How do you see the Pitt WR battle playing out? Who will earn starting spots?
- Question 3: What is Pitt’s biggest strength, and Pitt’s biggest weakness?
- Jim Hammett, CardiacHill.com
- Chris Bruno, CardiacHill.com (@BrunoPittsburgh)
- Justin Witmer (@NFLGimpy)
- Anson Whaley, CardiacHill.com (@AnsonWhaley)
- Corey Cohen (@CoreyECohen)
What would make this a successful season, in your opinion?
The Penn State game is extremely important from a recruiting standpoint, but no one game will ever make a season for me. It would be difficult to go 5-7 while winning that game and call the year a success. And while winning the Division would be tremendous, it’s hard for me to set that as the marker for success, either. North Carolina and Miami will be difficult challengers and if Pitt somehow went 8-4 or 9-3 in the regular season but lost the Division with losses to those teams, it would be difficult to be too upset with that. And conversely, if they went only 6-6 but somehow won the Division, that would be a success, too.
Leaving out the individual game aspect and the conference achievements, I think Pitt needs to win no less than eight games (including a bowl). That means there wouldn’t be a dropoff from the previous year and if Penn State is one of those wins or they contend for a Division, it becomes that much better. This team can be very good, but I can’t say I’m to the point of expecting a Division title just yet.
A successful season for me, honestly, is beating Penn State. Don’t get me wrong, a Penn State victory as part of a 3-9 season would still be a nightmare, but any good season pretty much needs to come with a Penn State win. An 8-4 record would be really nice, but if one of those 8 wins isn’t against Penn State, things feel hollow. A 6-6 year including a victory over the Nittany Lions would still feel good. Trust me, if you live outside of Allegheny County and you’re surrounded by Penn State fans, a slightly worse record but a win over PSU is so much better than the inverse. I think a 7-5 season (including a win over Penn State) is a good goal for a season with a monstrously tough schedule, a superstar playmaker gone to the NFL, and a former ACC Player of the Year returning from a season-ending injury and a life-threatening disease.
I think when you have a new coach, you just want to make it seem like you are making progress. So having said that, I think going from eight wins to nine would be a big deal. Whether the team goes 8-4 and wins the bowl game, or goes 9-3 and loses the bowl game really wouldn’t matter so much to me.
I think in the end, Pitt should compete for the Coastal Division again. They came up short last season, but a 6-2 conference record was rather impressive and it had them playing meaningful games throughout the season.
Pitt doesn’t need to beat any specific team, but obviously the elephant in the room is Penn State. Does Pitt absolutely need to beat them? Of course not. Would it be great? Absolutely. That game’s perception in the mind’s of fans for both sides will be bigger than the outcome itself. Pitt can still win the division without beating Penn State, go to a good bowl and land some solid recruits, but at the end of the day I know Pitt fans and players and coaches really want that win, probably more than most.
Any bowl game appearance. I really think Pitt fans need to take a step back and realize just how brutal Pitt’s schedule is this season. 6-6 would be a nice year for them and the sad thing is, that you know Pitt’s fanbase, would not see it that way, but I do. Just look at that schedule man! Then, remind yourself that UVA, Virginia Tech, Miami, and Syracuse, all went out and upgraded at the coaching position. In the cases of Virginia Tech and Miami….they REALLY upgraded! Add that to the fact that you have games AT Clemson and AT UNC and AT Oklahoma State, and it’s brutal…and I haven’t even mentioned Penn State yet. They have Villanova as the opener, but then it’s gonna be an up and down ride, I think. Some see games and forget that someone like, oh say Marshall, will probably hit a bowl game at season’s end. They are no pushover either. It’s really a crazy hard schedule, especially when you factor in the coaching changes on some opponents.
Success is defined by improvement. All of the parts are there for an improvement in 2016. Only Tyler Boyd is truly irreplaceable this season but improvements at RB, QB, and a great OL should alleviate that. The defense has an entire year of experience in the new system and more talent than 2015. The issue is the team may be better but it might not show up in wins and losses due to a tougher schedule.
If Pitt wins eight again with this schedule, that’s a successful season. Road trips to Clemson, UNC, and Oklahoma State (#2, #15, and #20 at the end of last season) are very difficult. Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech were uncharacteristically down last season. Eight wins will be tough to come by.