I was in a fantastic mood when I woke up on November 15, 2019 and not just because it was a Friday. I’m also sure that many of you felt similarly that morning, as the Panthers had won dramatically in overtime against the North Carolina Tar Heels just the night before. Not only had Pitt gotten the UNC monkey off their back with the win, but they had run their record to 7-3 and maintained a realistic shot at repeating as Coastal division champions and earning a spot in the Orange Bowl. Things obviously changed quickly after that, as Pitt ended the regular season with back-to-back losses to Virginia Tech and Boston College. The Panthers’ loss to Virginia Tech was bad enough in that it eliminated Pitt from Coastal division contention, but it was also the program’s first shutout in over 10 years. They followed that up with a lackluster showing against an inferior Boston College team, committing 4 turnovers en route to a 26-19 loss.
The losses were not only embarrassing, but they caused Pitt to plummet down the ACC bowl pecking order, setting up a date in Detroit’s Quick Lane Bowl against a MAC opponent. Needless to say, it was a far cry from the potential New Year’s Six matchup that had been a possibility just weeks ago. Despite the disappointing finish to the season Pitt has one last game, which at the very least provides extra practices and one last time to see the seniors play, even if it is a glorified exhibition. However, for a variety of reasons, Pitt’s tilt with Eastern Michigan is about as close to a must-win that you’ll see for a non-Playoff bowl game.
One obvious reason that Pitt needs a win to finish up the season has to do with their poor recent results in post-season play. Admittedly, as I mentioned above, these are glorified exhibitions and they tend to lend themselves to unusual results. Because of this, there shouldn’t be too much disappointment when a team loses a bowl game. However, it gets frustrating when Pitt seems unable to win these games and finish the season on a high note year after year. Pitt has yet to win a bowl game under Pat Narduzzi, with the Panthers losing each of the 3 opportunities that they’ve had. The 2016 Pinstripe Bowl against Northwestern and last year’s Sun Bowl against Stanford were especially frustrating. In the former, Pitt had been a much better team during the regular season than the mediocre Northwestern team they were facing. However, injuries to James Conner and Nathan Peterman handicapped what had been a potent offense that season and the Wildcats pulled off the upset. Last year, Pitt outplayed Stanford to a fairly significant degree, but an anemic offense kept the Cardinal in the game and they held on for a 14-13 victory....
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