The Pitt Panthers are headed back to the BBVA Compass Bowl for the third straight year after becoming bowl eligible on the final weekend of the regular season.
Coach Paul Chryst has guided the Panthers to a fifth consecutive bowl appearance despite going 3-4 in-conference in their final season in the Big East before moving to the ACC.
Even though Pitt was 2-1 against ranked teams this season (with that one loss being in triple-overtime against then No.4 Notre Dame), the Panthers have also lost games against weaker teams such as Youngstown State and the University of Connecticut. What might be more telling is that while the Panthers have not lost more than two games in a row, they haven’t won more than two in a row either.
Chryst feels the team has improved over the course of the season, but sees the improvement as constantly in flux.
“I felt like our [improvement] was so up and down,” he said. “Sometimes I think too, it’s hard to see the forest through the trees sometimes.”
While it doesn’t hurt to have the same coach for their bowl game for the first time in three years, Pitt will still have a strong team to deal with in the University of Mississippi. Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace is a threat through the air and the ground, leading the team with eight rushing touchdowns.
Chryst said the quality of Ole Miss can easily be seen.
“It’s one of those where it didn’t take long when you put on the tape. It grabbed, you know, certainly coaches, and when the players start watching it, it certainly grabs your attention. And I think it’s helped out preparation in the sense that you’ve got to be locked in,” he said.
Panthers defensive back Andrew Taglianetti believes having a completely new team to play adds to the excitement, and quality, of the game.
“I mean, I remember our first year here we played Kentucky which was cool, an SEC team, and then [Southern Methodist] last year—they were a pretty good team with [SMU Head Coach] June Jones, and this year another SEC team in Ole Miss,” he said. “So I think it’s exciting, always look for a good competition, and a school out of the SEC should always bring that to the forefront.”