On Saturday, the Pittsburgh Panthers and Syracuse Orange produced FBS history by combining for 137 total points. Ultimately, the game ended in Pitt’s favor, 76-61, quite an adventurous way for all 21 Panther seniors to end their respective careers. But the exhilarating news wouldn’t halt there. The newest Associated Press poll came out Sunday, revealing Pitt in a two-way heat for the poll’s No. 24 spot — tied with University of South Florida.
A top 25 Panthers team, before Sunday’s announcement, hasn’t seen the light of day since October 29, 2015, in which Pitt ranked No. 23.
Checking in at No. 24 only marks Pitt’s third time in any major poll since 2011.
Now, under Pat Narduzzi’s tutelage, the team experienced back-to-back seasons falling somewhere within the AP top 25.
Many believe Pitt would’ve landed themselves in strong FBS playoff contention, due to its strength of schedule (32nd nationally, exactly eight spots higher than Clemson) and potential win-loss record.
Defenders hit the nail right on the head. Just 11 combined points separated the Panthers from three signature wins — North Carolina, Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech.
Even without a win at OSU but wins over both Atlantic Coast Conference foes, Pitt would’ve at least captured the Coastal division of the ACC. Leading to what would have been a trip to the ACC conference game and another showdown versus Clemson.
|Week 3 (Saturday, September 17)||Oklahoma State – 38-45|
|Week 4 (Saturday, September 24)||North Carolina – 36-37|
|Week 8 (Thursday, October 27)||Virginia Tech – 36-39|
Freshman wide receiver Aaron Mathews also endorses the idea that Pitt potentially could’ve turned the NCAA head over heels in 2016.
We made the top25 poll, sitting at #24 but it's scary to think about how we were 3 plays away from possibly being in the top5 conversation..
— Aaron Mathews (@Mathews_A1) November 27, 2016
Regardless, losses are losses and the Panthers defeated none of the three teams listed.
Where Pitt heads for its bowl game will be determined and released to the public next Sunday.
However, no matter the amount of losses that were nearly wins for Pitt, a win in whatever bowl its given will highly influential for next year’s team and its chance of beginning ranked out of the gates.
O’Neill up for Piesman Trophy
Brian O’Neill, who rushed for two touchdowns in 2016, found himself as a Piesman Trophy candidate early-Monday afternoon.
— Pitt Football (@Pitt_FB) November 27, 2016
But what is the Piesman Trophy?
For those who don’t know, it’s deemed college football’s first trophy honoring linemen who do decidedly un-linemen things.
Well, as mentioned, O’Neill, the former tight end prospect turned lineman, converted two touchdown opportunities this season.
Here are links to both.
Both were fantastic, completely unsuspected from the 300-pound offensive lineman.
Voting is up and currently running over at SB Nation — the pair of O’Neill’s touchdowns are available for selection.
Joe Cinello covers Pirates and Pitt Panthers material for Pittsburgh Sports Castle. Connect with him on Facebook (Joey Cinello), LinkedIn (Joseph Cinello) and Twitter (jcin13).