The Pittsburgh Panthers produced a once-in-a-decade season in 2021.
Pittsburgh can still have a solid year in 2022, but regression is going to hit the program harder than most teams in the power-five conferences.
Pitt caught headlines last season for its improved offense, but now all of the key pieces from that unit are elsewhere. Kenny Pickett was a first-round draft pick, Jordan Addison made a controversial transfer to USC and Mark Whipple is now Nebraska's offensive coordinator.
Pat Narduzzi's team got worse at a few key positions and it could be in for a reality check in the first two weeks when West Virginia and Tennessee come to town.
Pittsburgh 2022 Schedule
September 1: vs. West Virginia
September 10: vs. Tennessee
September 17: at Western Michigan
September 24: vs. Rhode Island
October 1: vs. Georgia Tech
October 8: vs. Virginia Tech
October 22: at Louisville
October 29: at North Carolina
November 5: vs. Syracuse
November 12: at Virginia
November 19: vs. Duke
November 26: at Miami
The Bet: Under 8.5 Wins (-115)
We are going to learn what the 2022 version of Pittsburgh looks like right away.
The Panthers get thrown into the reignition of the Backyard Brawl against West Virginia, host Tennessee in Week 2 and face a tricky road trip to MAC country to face Western Michigan.
A disadvantage at quarterback will be in play for the first two games and it could be a prevailing theme all season. JT Daniels is the better USC transfer compared to Kedon Slovis in Week 1 and Hendon Hooker is the more proven signal-caller in the matchup with Tennessee.
Slovis needs to take a few steps up in his game to match what Kenny Pickett did inside the offense last year. It may be an unfair comparison because the two are fit into different systems, but that's what we'll do anyway because Pickett was the key to the offense in 2021.
Slovis has not thrown for more than 20 touchdowns in a single season since his debut on the college scene at USC in 2019. His completion percentage went down from 67 in 2020 to 65 last year. He had 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions over his last two seasons in the Pac-12.
If Slovis entered the Pitt offense from last season, he would be in a decent position to succeed, but everyone is getting up to speed with what new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti has in store.
Pittsburgh's offense is also at a disadvantage when it comes to wide receiver since reigning Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addision left late in the offseason for USC.
Pitt returns its other top wide receiver in Jared Wayne, as well as its three top rushers from 2021, all of whom had over 500 rushing yards.
The Panthers did not lose everything on offense, but NFL talents at quarterback and wide receiver seem like a huge deal in the current age of college football.
Then there is the schedule and Narduzzi's overall history at Pitt to talk about in terms of things going against the Panthers replicating their 11-win season.
Narduzzi did not win more than eight games in six previous seasons at Pitt prior to the breakout year in 2021. Pitt has been a perfectly average and not great program for a long time and it will likely resort back to that in 2022.
Pitt's first easy game of 2022 comes in Week 4, when it plays host to FCS side Rhode Island. The home clashes with West Virginia and Tennessee and the road trip to Western Michigan will all be tough on the Panthers.
The road trips throughout the ACC campaign do not lend themselves to the over on the regular-season win total either. Pitt has to visit Miami, Virginia, Louisville and North Carolina in a six-week stretch to end the season. The only victories guaranteed in the second half of the season are against Syracuse and Duke.
Even if Pitt wins all of its home games and beats Western Michigan, that is still just eight wins and no guaranteed wins on the road in the ACC.
Any path to nine wins that you mock up for Pittsburgh is difficult and it just feels like the Panthers are going to slip back into mediocrity and play in a bowl game between Christmas Day and New Years' Eve.