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Football schedule gives Pitt chance to win, attract fans


I heard so much about Pitt’s “dynamic” football schedule during the Monday news conference at Heinz Field that I decided to check it out for myself.

Turns out that it’s not just meaningless hype. This is a schedule area football fans could enjoy.

Only two of Pitt’s 2013 opponents earned spots in the final 2012 Associated Press rankings, but they are No. 4 Notre Dame and No. 10 Florida State. Both games are at home this season, giving athletic director Steve Pederson a chance for that coveted Heinz Field sellout (all 65,050 seats paid in full).

Allthough 10 of Pitt’s opponents were unranked, only three had losing records: New Mexico (4-9), Duke (6-7) and Virginia (4-8). The collective winning percentage for all 12 schools is .606 (94-61) — .584 (83-59), if you throw out FCS Old Dominion’s 11-2.

Compare that to the 2012 opponents:

Again, only two were ranked in 2011, but Virginia Tech was No. 21 and Cincinnati No. 25. Winning percentage: .550 (82-67). It was .566 (72-55) if you exclude Youngstown State and Gardner-Webb of the FCS

The intriguing aspect of Pitt’s 2013 schedule is that it is attractive, but not impossible. Pitt plays potential ACC title contenders Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Georgia Tech, but the Coastal — Pitt’s  home — is the weakest of the two ACC divisions. North Carolina, Miami and Georgia Tech tied for first place last season with records of 5-3.

“I don’t know if we could put together a better scenario,” Pederson said.

Pederson is trying to sell tickets, and the ACC is giving him the chance to do  it.

— Pederson said more than 4,000 new season-ticket packages have been sold. That doesn’t count renewals, so Pitt has a chance to beat the 42,000 sold last year.

— Wide receiver Devin Street joined defensive tackle Aaron Donald at the news conference. Street was asked if chose to return this season — he had considered making himself available for the NFL Draft — for the chance to play in the ACC. He gave an interesting answer that speaks to his maturity. “Most of my decision was if I’m ready or not,” he said. “I felt like I wasn’t ready to leave.” Many players in a similar position convince themselves they are ready for the NFL when, actually, the opposite is true. Give Street credit for keeping his priorities in order. Street’s a smart guy, whose leadership and skill level will be important this season.

— I chatted with Donald about the NFL Combine, and asked him how many reps of 225 pounds he could do in the weightlifting drills. He answered 30, which would put him among the top defensive line prospects eligible for the draft. Only four did more than that this week.

— Another year working with Pitt’s coaching staff will do Donald and Street a lot of good, but 12 months from now, they’ll be ready to play for a living.




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