Pitt Football: 5 Most Highly Anticipated Games of 2012 Season
A new season provides new opportunities for the Pittsburgh Panthers, and it could be a season to remember for Pitt fans.
After quickly moving through four different head coaches since 2010, the Panthers finally found a candidate that would stick with the program in former Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst.
In Chryst's first year as head coach, the Panthers return nine out of 11 starters on offense, including quarterback Tino Sunseri and running back Ray Graham.
While the Big East continues to shuffle the cards, Pittsburgh is ready to begin its climb to the top of the conference.
These five games are what fans should be most excited about heading into the 2012 season.
Cincinnati Bearcats (Sept. 6)
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After a warmup against Youngstown State, Pitt's first real challenge comes in Week 2 when it travels to Cincinnati to take on the Bearcats.
Fans are always excited first conference game of the season, but it helps the cause that this one is on Thursday night prime time.
All eyes will be on Pitt as it tries to avenge the 26-23 thrilling loss it suffered at home last season.
With West Virginia out of the picture, the race for the Big East opens up even more. A win over Cincy, and the Panthers would be in a nice position to begin the 2012 campaign.
Virginia Tech Hokies (Sept. 15)
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The Virginia Tech Hokies have long been atop of the ACC and are one of the best football programs along the East Coast over the last decade.
The matchup is only the third game of the season, but it is the first game in which the Panthers will be challenged at home.
Heinz Field will be rocking and ready for some "Beamer ball."
Back-to-back wins at Cincy and at home against Virginia Tech would almost guarantee a perfect first month of football for Pitt, something the Panthers have not achieved in several years.
Louisville Cardinals (Oct. 13)
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Pitt takes on the Big East preseason favorite, Louisville Cardinals, at home on Oct. 13.
While other teams will have their shot at the Cardinals, the Panthers must view this as a must-win if they have any aspirations of taking the Big East title home.
Luckily for Pitt and Panther fans, the game will be a home matchup at Heinz Field.
New head coach Paul Chryst would make a huge splash in his first year by knocking off the conference favorite in front of his home crowd.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Nov. 3)
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While Paul Chryst just sat down in Pittsburgh, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly's seat is getting uncomfortably warm.
The Panthers and Fighting Irish have played the last four seasons, splitting the series at two games apiece.
Pitt has two chances at a nice-looking win outside of its conference. If the Panthers don't knock off Virginia Tech at home, winning in South Bend is almost a must.
South Florida Bulls (Dec. 1)
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While Louisville is the favorite to win the conference at the start of the season, South Florida could make a strong push heading into the final weeks.
Being that it is the Panthers' final game, the outcome could be huge in terms of a conference championship.
More importantly, this looks as though it will be the Panthers' final game as a member of the Big East before they make their jump to the ACC in 2013.