Pitt football preview: Will the Panthers be better than 8-5?

Under Pat Narduzzi, better than 8-5 is a definite maybe!

Pat Narduzzi is at the helm for another season. Can Pitt get to 10 wins?

Pat Narduzzi is at the helm for another season. Can Pitt get to 10 wins?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Is this one of those columns where the author pretends he or she is being asked questions?

It sure is!

Okay. So you’re just doing it right from the start, I guess? No intro or anything?

Sure am!

Uh, alright. What exactly are we supposedly asking you questions about?

Pitt’s 2017 football season. You will ask me questions, I’ll answer them and the result will be a quick, easy-to-read preview of their season.

That actually sounds … kind of interesting? So how will Pitt do this year?

Hey, great question! And I’m glad you committed to the Q&A concept before this intro got really long. Pitt is not ranked to start the season. In the AP preseason poll they are in the “Also Receiving Votes” category and, if the poll was extended, would be ranked No. 32. Same deal in the Coaches Poll: No. 32. Here’s a look at both rankings. See: 32.

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Boston College
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

So it sounds like Pitt will be kind of good this year, but not actually good. And while not actually good, definitely not bad. Is this correct? Pitt is going to go 8-5 again this year, aren’t they?

They sure could, friend! Pitt is The Official College Football Team of 8-5. They did it in 2016. And 2015. And 20- … wait, no. They went 6-7 in 2014 for a nice change of pace. But Pitt has gone 8-5 in head coach Pat Narduzzi’s two seasons with the program. Ideally, they will win 9 or 10 … or even more? … this year. That No. 32 projection by the so-called “experts,” and coaches who still totally have their sports information directors vote for them even if they have to put their names on it now, would slot them in around 8-5.

You apparently have all the answers … at least in the structure of this column you’ve created. Do you think Pitt will do better than 8-5?

I can say that I don’t see any way Pitt is worse than 8-5. There is too much talent on the roster, and the schedule is too weak this year — after playing Top 10 teams Penn State and Oklahoma State back-to-back Saturdays in mid-September, of course — to see a path to six losses.

That said, Pitt-ing is a real thing. Remember that last year Pitt handed national champion Clemson its only loss of the season, at Clemson, beat a Penn State team that won the Big Ten and almost beat Oklahoma State? They then lost to North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Miami by 23 points, and fell to a bad Northwestern team in their bowl game.

Look for Pitt to go 9-4 this year barring any extreme Pitting and 10-3 without any Pitting at all.

Max Browne graduated from USC and is now the starter at Pitt this year.

Max Browne graduated from USC and is now the starter at Pitt this year.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

You wrote that Pitt has a lot of talent. Who are the players I should know?

A good place to start is always the quarterback, and Pitt has a new one in Max Browne. He is a graduate transfer from USC, so he’ll only be on campus for this season, but a lot is expected from him. Not so long ago one of the top recruits in the nation, Browne has an NFL skill set and was named one of Pitt’s captains for 2017. His play will go a long way in determining if Pitt is an 8-win team or a 10-win team.

The most fun player to watch is Quadree Henderson, Pitt’s 5-foot-8, do everything, preseason All-American. Catching passes, running the ball, returning kicks — Henderson does a little bit of everything and does it well.