With the Panthers two days away from playing in the BBVA Compass Bowl for the third straight season, it's only natural to not be very excited about that. Unfortunately, Pitt is a Big East member, and the BBVA (or as I like to call it"The Seventh Cousin of them all,") is part of the Big East bowl affiliation, and the only real way to avoid such an invite is to not finish at 6-6, which Pitt has done for the past two seasons.
Fortunately, the Panthers will be jumping to the ACC next season, and that means different bowl affiliations. However, it doesn't necessarily mean a higher pedigree of bowl games. It wouldn't be surprising to see Pitt struggle next season. For one thing, the football team will have a schedule full of mostly unfamiliar opponents. And secondly, the ACC is an upgrade from the Big East (if only slightly.)
Like a local radio head said recently, "There are no Florida States in the Big East.")
So, if Pitt is indeed going to struggle for the next season or two, what middling bowls will the program and its fans have to look forward to in upcoming seasons?
Thanks to this wikipedia site which details the ACC and its bowl affiliations, I can see that the ACC champion is the number one choice for the Orange Bowl and has been since 2006. That's not a bad bowl to be tied to. Miami is nice this time of year or any time, really.
However, since the Panthers haven't earned a BCS berth since January of 2005, we better take a look at some of those "lesser" bowls that are affiliated with the ACC.
-The Chick-fil-A Bowl: Perhaps better known as the Peach Bowl, the site of the game is in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.The second choice of ACC teams usually goes to this bowl, and the opponent is normally a pretty decent SEC team--Clemson just knocked off #9 LSU on New Year's Eve. Not a bad game and not a bad destination for Panthers fans. Of course, if it ever came down to a choice between Pitt and Notre Dame (that program sticks its nose in everything), you better make reservations in Miami, Fla. for.........
-The Russell Athletic Bowl: The bid for this game usually goes to the third choice of ACC teams, and is played in Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami. So, while it may not be the Orange Bowl, citrus is involved (it used to be known as the Tangerine Bowl, and Pitt actually played in this game following the 2001 season). I could see the Panthers earning a bid to this game during a year in-which they blow a two-score lead in the ACC Championship game and are then passed over by Notre Dame for the Chick-fil-A bowl.
-The Hyundai Sun Bowl: This isn't a bad bowl, as it still gets to include its original name right after the sponsor of the year--always a sign of prestige and cache. The site of the game is El Paso, Texas, and according to wikipedia, this bowl often goes to either the ACC runner-up or the fourth place team. I could see Pitt earning a trip to this bowl. The Panthers have played in this bowl twice since 1989--most recently the infamous 3-0 loss to Oregon St. on December 31st, 2008.
-Belk Bowl: Now this is right up Pitt's alley. The game is located in Charlotte, North Carolina and goes to the fifth choice from the ACC. The Panthers have actually played in this bowl two other times--once following the 2003 season when it was called the Continental Tire Bowl and a second time following the 2009 season when it was called the Meineke Car Care Bowl. However, most long-time Pitt fans often refer to the 2009 game as The Pitt Loses Out on a Chance to Go to the Sugar Bowl and Has to Settle for This Crap? Bowl. Oh, the pageantry.
Oh well. That's all the bowls I'll go over now. Anything after Belk is just the ACC's version of BBVA.