Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Where will the Panthers be Bowling?

If you've so much as looked at a reputable sports website that follows College Football in the past few weeks you've surely seen bowl projections everywhere, and yet everyone seems to have a different idea of where our beloved Pitt Panthers may be headed. Part of the reason is that the wacky Big East conference has its team play in an astonishing 5 separate months, and the other reason is that the wacky Big East conference has a confusing scheme for its teams going to bowl games. So I thought I would look at likely destinations for the Panthers under a few different scenarios:

Scenario 1: The Panthers win out, Notre Dame loses, Cincinnati and Rutgers win
Wins over West Virginia and Connecticut would firmly establish the Panthers as a very attractive team for the middle tier bowl games. With Cincinnati basically having the BCS game all but locked up, the Gator or Sun Bowl will pick next among the Big East teams. It's likely that the Gator will go with a Big 12 team this season, which means the Sun Bowl will pick either a Big East team or Notre Dame. However, if ND loses to USC and Rutgers knocks off Louisville, then the Sun Bowl HAS to pick a Big East team. And if the Panthers were to win out, they would almost certainly be that team.
Scenario 2: The Panthers win out, Cincinnati wins, Notre Dame and Rutgers lose
This scenario differs from the first in that the Big East would no longer have enough 7 win teams to fill out its bowl lineup, and therefore all 6-6 affiliates, including Notre Dame, would become eligible for all of the remaining bowls. Notre Dame would then be the logical pick for Notre Dame. If this happens, the Panthers are probably the next in line of the Big East teams still, though, and would probably go to The Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte, a so-so destination.
Scenario 3: The Panthers beat WVU, lose to UConn.
Despite the Panthers having beaten WVU head to head, the Mountaineers would have at worst the same conference record as the Panthers, and traditionally are a stronger traveling team than Pitt for bowl games. This would likely make WVU the Sun Bowl pick still, and Pitt, Rutgers, and UConn would all be fighting it out for the Continental Tire Bowl, with the Birmingham Bowl, and the International Bowl waiting in line. The Panthers are a bigger school and have more history, and still are headed to The Continental Tire Bowl.
Scenario 4: The Panthers lose to WVU, beat UConn
This would likely have the same result as the previous scenario, as the Mountaineers would definitely be the superior pick and they would go to the Sun Bowl and our Panthers go to The Continental Tire Bowl.
Scenario 5: The Panthers win one and lose, and Rutgers loses to Louisvilles
As I said before, the Scarlet Knights will determine if there are enough 7 win teams or not in the Big East to fill all of the bowls, and thus keep Notre Dame out of the running for a bowl game. If the Knights do lose, though, ND would likely take the Sun Bowl, and at worst would take the Continental Tire Bowl while WVU takes the Sun Bowl. This would leave the mess of less than desirable bowl games to pick among the clutter of Big East teams in Pitt, UConn, South Florida, Louisville, and Rutgers. In this scenario, though, other bowls that aren't conference-affiliated that didn't have enough teams from their affiliations to get 2 teams would be in touch with the Big East about getting one of their teams. And with the lack of good Bowl options, the Big East might let their highest-profile team, probably our Panthers, play in one of these bowls if it is viewed as being a better location. Some possibilities would be the Emerald Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl, or Texas Bowl. Still, I think the Big East keeps the Panthers in house, so they go to the St. Petersburg Bowl, a decent spot with no history.
Scenario 6: The Panthers lose out
This is the doomsday scenario for Pitt, as they would have 3 straight losses and would be an unattractive team for any bowl. WVU sows up the Sun Bowl, red-hot Rutgers takes the Continental Tire Bowl, and the Panthers are left fighting for scraps with the tradition-less UConn Huskies, with one going to Birmingham and the other to Toronto. The bet is that Birmingham, which picks before the International Bowl, takes the Panthers and Pitt has a very poor attendance at The Birmingham Bowl. Ugh.

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