Pitt Panthers Open Big East Play Against South Florida with a Clean Slate

Dominic ErricoCorrespondent ISeptember 28, 2011

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Tino Sunseri #12 of the Pittsburgh Panthers drops back to pass against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the game on September 24, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

What's done is done. The Pittsburgh Panthers started off the year a shaky 2-0, and now stand 2-2 after blowing two straight fourth quarter leads to Iowa (leading to the biggest comeback in Hawkeyes history) and Notre Dame (an ugly 15-12 defeat).

Substandard quarterback play from Tino Sunseri, shakey secondary play (save for the Notre Dame game), and all around sloppiness leaves Pitt at a crossroads.

This week's game is a new beginning though. Throw the national championship out the window, Pitt was never going to compete for that anyways. Still at stake, however, is the Big East title. 

A win this week over the undefeated South Florida Bulls would go a long way towards building some confidence for the Panthers. Maybe they are just slow learners and this is the week they finally grasp head coach Todd Graham's system fully.

They'll have the chance to show how well they can handle the dual passing and running threat of USF quarterback BJ Daniels. South Florida is averaging 45.5 points per game; Pitt hasn't scored that much in the last two games combined (39), nor have they even crossed the 40-point plateau this season.

None of that matters though. What matters is this week, this game. It's a Thursday night game, and those have traditionally been bad luck for ranked teams.

The numbers are overwhelmingly against Pitt, and based on what I've seen from this football team, there's no possible way they win, right? That's what most experts said before the 2007 Backyard Brawl in which Pitt destroyed West Virginia's shot at the national championship .

Look back at the stats from that game. Pitt's winning quarterback Pat Bostick, now the radio color analyst for the team, threw for 67 yards and two interceptions. Sixty-seven yards! WVU went into that game as four-touchdown favorites, and yet Pitt found a way to win. 

Three WVU fumbles and an injury to star quarterback Pat White certainly hurt the Mountaineers, but you have to give Pitt credit for believing.

That's the whole point of this piece: Pitt needs to start believing again. You can tell the Iowa debacle rattled the Panthers' confidence, and the ugliness we saw against Notre Dame probably didn't help either. 

Wipe it clean though, because that was essentially the exhibition season. Now is when Big East play begins, and now is when you need to start playing your best football.

Could something magical happen again for the Pitt Panthers? While I wouldn't bet on it, it certainly wouldn't be the most shocking upset Pitt has ever pulled off.

Don't get me wrong, I still think the Big East will come down to either West Virginia or South Florida. But Pitt has a chance to prove many doubters wrong, including me, and I'm curious to see if they can.