What to make of the 2012 Pittsburgh Panthers under first year coach Paul Chryst? Sure, they're a 6-6 football team that will probably get an invitation to some 3rd world bowl somewhere. However, it's a team that could have been a lot better or even a lot worse. I'm sure you could say that about any football team--the whole "fine line" philosophy--but the Panthers were just totally unpredictable in 2012.
Pitt started out the year by losing to the division II (or whatever the college football sub-divisions are called today) Youngstown St. Penguins in Week 1, followed by a beatdown in Cincinnati in Week 2.
However, just when you thought the season was lost, the Panthers went out and handed it to 13th ranked Virginia Tech in Week 3. Maybe the Hokies weren't worthy of their early-season credentials, but Pitt may have pulled off an even bigger feat weeks later when the team came within an inch (almost literally) of knocking off Notre Dame in South Bend when Panthers' placekicker Kevin Harper barely missed a 33 yard field goal in double-overtime that would have won the game. Now the Fighting Irish' are ranked number one in the nation and are set to play Alabama in the National title game in January.
You lose to Youngstown St. and then almost totally alter the National title picture? Crazy Panthers. Of course, who can blame them for being a bit uneven during a season in-which they had to play under their fourth head coach and third coaching regime since December of 2010. If I was a 20 year old in that situation, I'd act out, too, on the football field.
The roller coaster 2012 Panthers then lost to an underwhelming Connecticut team following the heartbreaking Notre Dame defeat and followed that up with another unexpected impressive 27-6 win over a ranked Rutgers team a week ago at Heinz Field.
The regular season wrapped up Saturday night with a 27-3 victory over the South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium.
Pitt finished fifth in the Big East and now is slated to play in any number of third-tier bowl games. The latest bowl projections place the Panthers in the Pinstripe Bowl against West Virginia on December 29th. I don't know how excited any Pitt fan could possibly be with yet another appearance in the BBVA Compass Bowl or the Beef O'Brady Bowl, but a matchup against the program's most heated football rival would probably be more rewarding for the fan base than even a trip to a higher-level non-BCS bowl against a more formidable opponent.