We heard about it, we knew it would happen, and now it has. The Pitt Panthers will not open up with a pushover to start the 2013 college season and their new adventure in the Atlantic Coast Conference. It begins on Labor Day night with the Florida State Seminoles coming to Heinz Field for a nationally televised game. Beats a Saturday afternoon game against Old Dominion on ESPN 3, right?
It's obvious that the Panthers schedule will be an upgrade from the previous year. New (if you want to call some of them that) opponents and a larger national spotlight than in years past.
Now, nobody wants to be the turd in the punch bowl, but how many out there believe that Pitt, who finished 6-7 overall, 3-4 in the Big East will be able to be a 6-6 team in their first year in a better conference? The arguments could be different after Labor Day, based on how the Panthers perform, but as of now, you could place Pitt as a team with sub .500 record in conference play. Pitt has some softies thrown in there (New Mexico, Old Dominion, Duke), but after watching them against Youngstown State in week one, anything can happen.
West Virginia is a great example of a school that jumped out of the Big East early and went to the Big XII, and while the welcome party was nice, but after the first five games, the schedule got harder for the Mountaineers. No defense and an offense that was asked to score 35 or more points per game lead to a 7-6 overall record, and a 3-5 conference finish. The Pinstripe Bowl loss to former Big East opponent Syracuse made it even worse. As for men's hoops, it has been a LONG year for Huggins and his team. Overall, a rough start for West Virginia in it's first go-around in a new conference.
Will Panther fans be O.K. with a turbulent start in the A.C.C.? The "glass is half empty" crowd is probably prepping for it. We're talking football right now. Pitt hoops is not even at the Garden for their final conference tournament yet.
There are some upsides to Pitt being in the A.C.C. over West Virginia's move to the Big XII.
The Panthers are playing familiar foes. Syracuse is joining them, Notre Dame is still there, and hey, Pitt beat Virginia Tech last year. Miami (FL) is going to be a regular again. Hopefully things go better than the last time the Canes were in Pittsburgh for a game. West Virginia don't have a history with any of teams in the Big XII
Travel is better for Pitt. The Mountaineers are playing teams in the central part of the country. A lot of trips to Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa and Kansas is tough on them. Pitt won't have that problem, and starting times won't favor the central time zone.
In late April 2014, we'll step back and evaluate Pitt football and basketball's first seasons in the A.C.C. Will they have a better experience than their former I-79 rival in Morgantown, or will they be reeling, looking to adjust to a new environment?