The One Great Season College Football Countdown continues Monday. We'll be counting down the preseason Top 25 teams in 2010. Today's No. 15 is Pittsburgh.
By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
When your top returners are an 1,800-yard sophomore running back and the Big East's Defensive Player of the Year, it's safe to expect big things in the season ahead. And that's what's up at the University of Pittsburgh.
After two close misses in 2008 and 2009, Coach Dave Wannstedt's Panthers appear poised to snatch Big East supremacy away from Cincinnati.
They'll do so with running back Dion Lewis and defensive end Greg Romeus leading the way. Lewis is a Heisman Trophy candidate who could become the fourth straight sophomore to win college football's highest honor.
Some have questioned whether the 5-foot-8, 195-pounder can handle another 300-carry season, but let's not forget a guy named Emmitt Smith was inducted into the Hall of Fame over the weekend. He was similarly sized when he began his brilliant career at the University of Florida more than 20 years ago.
Size is not an issue for Greg Romeus, a Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2009. The 6-foot-6, 270-pound fifth-year senior possesses a dangerous mix of speed and strength to dominate the line of scrimmage. He'll contend for national honors this season, and with Jabaal Sheard manning the other end spot, the Pitt defensive line will be among the most disruptive in the country. And that defense will need to be stout, particularly in early season games against Utah and Miami, as the offense finds its legs under new quarterback Tino Sunseri.
Who's back?RB Dion Lewis, DE Greg Romeus, DE Jabaal Sheard, WR Jonathan Baldwin, LT Jason Pinkston
Who's gone?QB Bill Stull, CB Aaron Berry, S Elijah Fields, TE Dorin Dickerson
Why they'll win: Coach Dave Wannstedt appears to have found a groove with the Panthers, who probably return the best collection of star power in the Big East.
Why they'll lose: Non-league games against Miami, Utah and Notre Dame, then a closing schedule that includes four games against Big East contenders, three of which are on the road.
Get your tickets: vs. Miami (Sept. 23), at West Virginia (Nov. 26), at Cincinnati (Dec. 4)
Prediction: 9-3 (6-1, Big East champs)