Put Pitt In: Just a Joke or Real Possibility?

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Pitt football’s recent hot streak has put them on the precipice of clinching their first Coastal division title since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013. With a win over Wake Forest this weekend or a Virginia loss to Georgia Tech, Pitt will guarantee their first ever trip to the ACC Championship Game in a few weeks in Charlotte, North Carolina. In all likelihood, this would result in a blowout loss at the hands of the likely playoff-bound Clemson Tigers, but an upset victory would catapult Pitt into a New Year’s Six bowl game. Given that the Panthers at one point sat at 2-3, with blowout losses to Penn State and UCF and a still inexplicable loss to the awful UNC Tar Heels, the fact that we are talking about them potentially playing in such a marquee game is still a little mind-boggling. Believe it or not though, the Panthers have an opportunity to play in their biggest bowl game since the 2005 Fiesta Bowl.

As privileged as us Panthers’ fans should be feeling right now to even be talking about playing in one of college football’s showcase bowl games, should we be even greedier? The other day I found myself, as I often do in idle moments, playing around with one of fivethirtyeight.com’s interactives. In this case, it was related to Playoff and Conference Title odds for college football teams. Clicking the option to simulate Pitt winning their remaining games returned a result of a 1% chance for the Panthers to be selected for the College Football Playoff. Frankly, given Pitt’s 4 losses I was surprised they had odds that good. After all, no team with multiple losses has ever been selected for the Playoff in it’s brief history.

I tweeted out a screenshot of my find and received several responses, which got me thinking, what would it take to actually get Pitt into the Playoff? Was this actually something that could hypothetically happen if all the cards fell the right way or should I just shut up and be happy that Pitt is in great position to appear in the conference title game? I decided to do some basic research to find out. I will stop here to note that all of the following scenarios described