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ACC Season Preview: Pittsburgh

By Matt Osborne
SouthernPigskin.com
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Pittsburgh is preparing for its first season playing in the ACC.

Coach: Paul Chryst (second season; 6-7 overall)

2012 record: 6-7 (3-4, fifth in Big East)

Looking back: The Paul Chryst era got off to a rough start in Pittsburgh, as the Panthers were upset by FCS Youngstown State in their head coach’s debut. The team would steadily improve as the season wore along, however, as the team won four of six to close the regular season, earning a postseason bowl invite. Pittsburgh really appeared to embrace the philosophy of its head coach as the season progressed, and Chryst hopes that his team will continue to take on his personality as the Panthers transition into a new conference.

Offensive starters returning: 5

Defensive starters returning: 8

Top returnees: Aaron Donald, DT; Jason Hendricks, S; Devin Street; WR

Key losses: Mike Shanahan, WR; Tino Sunseri, QB; Ray Graham; RB

Strengths: The Panthers return three starters along a very talented defensive line, led by preseason first-team All-ACC selection Aaron Donald. Nose tackle Tyrone Ezell was a third-team All-Big East selection last season, and combines with Donald to give the Panthers one of the best interior defensive lines in the country.

Pittsburgh finished with a top 20 pass defense nationally last fall. Returning three starters in the secondary, the unit should be even more talented in 2013.

Weaknesses: The Panthers will have to break in a new starter at both quarterback and running back. Tom Savage, a two-time transfer who eventually ended up with the Panthers, has not thrown a pass in real game action since 2010, but will be asked to step in for the departed Tino Sunseri. Running back Isaac Bennett rushed for just 141 yards last fall, and he will have a difficult time replicating the production of Ray Graham.

Outlook/Prediction: The Panthers will immediately have one of the better defensive units in the conference, but the offense will have a hard time replacing some of its key losses. At the end of the day, the defense will play well enough to earn Chryst’s team six regular season wins, making the program bowl eligible.

2013 Schedule

Sept. 2 vs. Florida State 8:00 p.m. ESPN

Sept. 14 vs. New Mexico 12:30 p.m. ACC Network

Sept. 21 at Duke

Sept. 28 vs. Virginia

Oct. 12 at Virginia Tech

Oct. 19 vs. Old Dominion

Oct. 26 at Navy 1:00 p.m. CBS Sports Network

Nov. 2 at Georgia Tech

Nov. 9 vs. Notre Dame

Nov. 16 vs. North Carolina

Nov. 23 at Syracuse

Nov. 29 vs. Miami

Previous ACC Season Previews

Boston College

Clemson

Duke

Florida State

Georgia Tech

Maryland

Miami

North Carolina

NC State

Matt Osborne - Matt Osborne currently serves as the director of recruiting and lead editor for Southern Pigskin. His work has been published in a number of national publications, including USA Today. Although he loves all levels of football, Matt's number one joy in his life is his relationship with Jesus Christ. Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborne200. For media requests, please email Matt at matt@southernpigskin.com.