Pitt was recently picked to finish fourth in the ACC Coastal Division in 2019, despite winning the division last year. The Panthers finished the season 7-7, with four of their losses coming to top 20 teams.
The addition of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple should improve Pitt’s offense and inject life into a passing game that struggled throughout 2018. Pitt’s defense should be solid in 2019, but will have to adjust without injured defensive lineman Rashad Weaver.
Since Pitt joined the ACC in 2013, the Coastal Division has crowned a different champion every year. The division remains wide open and Pitt will again be a contender.
Here’s a game-by-game breakdown of Pitt’s season, in which I have the Panthers going 8-4.
Aug. 31 vs. Virginia: Pitt opens the season at home against Coastal Division favorite Virginia. The Cavaliers return a stout defense and dynamic quarterback Bryce Perkins. The Panthers have home-field advantage and will be debuting their new offense. Pitt may also have a chip on its shoulder after being picked to finish fourth in the division following its first Coastal Division crown a year ago. Pitt will win a close one over Virginia to open ACC play 1-0.
Sept. 7 vs. Ohio: Sandwiched between division opponent Virginia and rival Penn State, Ohio could be a tricky game for Pitt. The Bobcats were 9-4 last year and finished second in the Mid-American Conference East Division. Quarterback Nathan Rourke, a true dual-threat, threw for 23 touchdowns and added 15 more on the ground. Despite a potent offense, the Bobcats fell to Virginia, their lone Power 5 opponent last year. Pitt will win this one at home.
Sept. 14 at Penn State: Pitt travels to State College to face Penn State for the 100th time. It is the last scheduled meeting between the two schools. The Nittany Lions will be breaking in a new quarterback, but their tough defense from last season may be even better this year. It’s certain neither team has forgotten the 51-6 blowout by Penn State at a soggy Heinz Field last season. Pitt will put up a tougher fight this year, but Penn State’s defense will keep Pitt in check and the Panthers will lose their first game.
Sept. 21 vs. Central Florida: The Knights will have a new quarterback this season, as Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush takes over for star quarterback McKenzie Milton. Wimbush is a mobile quarterback and has starting experience. The offense will return eight starters, including running backs Greg McRae and Adrian Killins. Central Florida’s offensive firepower will be too much for the Panthers and Pitt will lose its second straight game.
Sept. 28 vs. Delaware: The Blue Hens finished third in the Colonial Athletic Association last season. These two teams last met in the opening game of 2014, when Pitt dominated Delaware and won 62-0. The Panthers haven’t lost to an FCS team since losing to Youngstown State in 2012, and they’ll beat Delaware to get back over .500.
Oct. 5 at Duke: The David Cutcliffe-led Blue Devils will have a new quarterback this season in dual-threat Quentin Harris. Pitt will have to keep both Harris and running back Deon Jackson in check. Jackson posted 403 all-purpose yards against the Panthers last season. The Panthers have not lost in Durham since 1965. That streak will be kept alive as Pitt takes another high-scoring matchup.
Oct. 18 at Syracuse: Pitt comes off a bye week and heads to the Carrier Dome for a Friday night matchup with Syracuse. The Orange’s up tempo offense will have a new signal caller this season in sophomore Tommy DeVito. DeVito may be a better passer than previous quarterback Eric Dungey, but is unlikely to match Dungey’s production on the ground. Pitt’s defense should give the team an edge against the Orange. The Panthers have won five of the last six matchups, and they should win a close one on the road.
Oct. 26 vs. Miami: The Hurricanes should again have one of the best defenses in the country, as all three of their starting linebackers from a year ago are back including three-time all-ACC player Shaquille Quarterman. Two of their starting defensive linemen also return. Miami’s defense had its way with Pitt last year, sacking Pickett six times and holding the Panthers to a season-low three points. Miami’s defense will again stifle Pitt and hand the Panthers their third loss.
Nov. 2 at Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech will be in rebuild mode this season as the Yellow Jackets transition from Paul Johnson’s option offense to a more pro-style offense under new head coach Geoff Collins. Georgia Tech is one of the youngest teams in country and will return only four starters on defense, making its task even taller. Pitt should take this one in Atlanta.
Nov. 14 vs. North Carolina: Pitt will come off an idle week to face North Carolina for a Thursday night matchup at home. The Tar Heels have been a thorn in the Panthers’ side, winning the past three meetings by a total of seven points. Mack Brown returns to Chapel Hill for his second head coaching stint. Pitt will finally get over the hump and get its first win over the Tar Heels since 2009. Don’t be surprised if it’s another close game; the last eight matchups have been decided by single digits.
Nov. 23 at Virginia Tech: Pitt heads to Blacksburg for its last road game of the season where the Hokies are certainly looking to avenge last year’s 52-22 drubbing at Heinz Field. Pitt set a school record with 654 total yards, including 492 on the ground. Tailbacks Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall are both gone, which makes a repeat rushing performance unlikely. There’s no doubt longtime Hokies’ defensive coordinator Bud Foster will look to stifle the Panthers offense. Virginia Tech will get revenge on its home turf and edge Pitt.
Nov. 30 vs. Boston College: The Eagles return to Pittsburgh for the first time since 2004, their last year in the Big East. Boston College’s defense had 18 interceptions in each of the past two seasons. The Eagles are rebuilding the unit this year as they lose their entire starting secondary and four other defensive starters. Pitt’s new offense under Whipple should be able to take advantage of an inexperienced Boston College defense, giving the Panthers their first eight-win season since 2016.