The One Best Bet: Pittsburgh Panthers Futures

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The Pittsburgh Panthers are coming off an ACC championship season in which they defeated Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers and reached the Peach Bowl, a New Year’s Six bowl game. Coach Pat Narduzzi has this program pointed in the right direction, and with questions swirling around Clemson and some of the other top programs in the Atlantic Coast Conference, there is a legitimate chance – albeit not a great one – that Pitt could go back-to-back and defend its conference championship.

It will be fascinating to see how Pitt responds to its status as defending champion, having won its first ACC football title. Most best betting sites have the Panthers at 12/1 to win the ACC next season.

How The Team Changed This Offseason

Coaching staff changes include offensive coordinator Mark Whipple leaving for Nebraska to help Scott Frost. That coaching change, combined with quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett going to the NFL, led Pittsburgh star receiver Jordan Addison to transfer to USC and play for new coach Lincoln Riley and quarterback Caleb Williams. That is a significant loss for Pittsburgh, though the wide receiver group does possess considerable depth. The change from Whipple to Frank Cignetti as offensive coordinator might be more impactful, though the Panthers certainly hope Cignetti can minimize any drop-offs in production from 2021. The new quarterback for Pitt is Kedon Slovis, who transferred from USC to play in the Steel City. He won’t have Addison to throw to, which will be an adjustment in itself. He was surely hoping to throw to Addison, but now he doesn’t have that weapon available.

Pittsburgh Will Be Successful If…

Kedon Slovis thrives. Slovis was injured in each of his past two seasons at USC. His arm strength is a question mark. He is not especially fast, which means he has to get first-rate pass protection in order to have a good chance of succeeding. His margin for error is relatively small. He did have a brilliant 2019 season and he does bring plenty of experience to Pittsburgh, but if his body and his health remain fragile, this will not be a successful Pitt season.

Pittsburgh Will Disappoint If…

The secondary does not hold up under pressure. The ACC Coastal Division has some quality quarterbacks, particularly Brennan Armstrong of Virginia and Tyler Van Dyke of Miami. The Pitt secondary is going to be tested, and this unit will need to show strength and resilience if Pitt is going to make a return trip to the ACC Championship Game.

The One Best Pittsburgh Panthers Bet Is…

Week 1: Pittsburgh -6 vs. West Virginia. The game is on a Thursday night, the first big featured prime-time weeknight game of the season. It is the Backyard Brawl, a fierce rivalry game between the two schools. What is fascinating about this game is that both teams will have new transfers at quarterback. Slovis is the guy for Pitt, and J.T. Daniels is the man for West Virginia. Both men have endured injuries and have had bumpy college careers. It’s a hard game to predict, which means that if one team is getting almost a touchdown, it’s natural to take that team against the spread.

Pick: West Virginia +6 vs. Pittsburgh in Week 1