If you believe in the power of numbers and analytics, Pitt has the second-easiest schedule among ACC football teams this season.
Odds-makers at SportsBettingDime.com developed a formula that leads to a ranking of the schedules of all 130 FBS teams. The formula sounds all-encompassing, taking into account opponents’ 2020 efficiency ratings (minus production lost), recruiting rankings and transfers gained and lost.
Pitt opens Sept. 4 against UMass, an independent formerly coached by Pitt offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. The Minutemen were 0-4 in a covid-shortened season in 2020, losing to Georgia Southern, Marshall, Florida Atlantic and Liberty by a combined score of 161-12.
That’s followed by a trip to Knoxville, Tenn., and Neyland Stadium (capacity, 102,455) to play the Volunteers, who were 3-7 and lost two valuable players to transfers — linebacker Henry To’o To’o (Alabama) and running back Eric Gray (Oklahoma). First-year coach Josh Heupel, formerly of UCF, replaces the fired Jeremy Pruitt amidst an NCAA investigation.
Western Michigan (3-3) of the MAC might be the most difficult nonconference opponent for Pitt, which never has been undefeated in games outside its league — not counting last season’s one game (Austin Peay).
Pitt also plays New Hampshire of the FCS Colonial Athletic Association. UNH lost its only game last season, 24-20, to Albany.
The ACC schedule is more demanding, especially in a three-game, 15-day stretch in October that features consecutive games against Virginia Tech on the road and Clemson and Miami at Heinz Field. Then, two weeks later, here comes North Carolina and Heisman hopeful Sam Howell.
But there is also the usual collection of ACC Coastal teams that Pitt usually feasts upon — Georgia Tech, Virginia, Duke and Syracuse. Under Pat Narduzzi, Pitt is 19-3 against those schools, but only Virginia is at home this season.
An easy schedule? Narduzzi surely will dispute such a notion when someone asks him about it. Pitt is a long way from the easiest schedule in the nation, ranking 64th.
Other scheduling notes:
• Boston College has the easiest schedule in the ACC, with Colgate and Missouri at home and UMass and Temple on the road, according to SBD.
• SBD ranks Georgia Tech’s schedule as the most difficult in the ACC. It features out-of-conference games against Northern Illinois and Kennesaw State (the first two) and Notre Dame and Georgia (the last two). Georgia Tech plays at Notre Dame and gets Georgia at home (although it’s only 91 minutes from Athens, Ga. to Atlanta).
• Five of the eight toughest schedules are found in the Big 12, led by woeful Kansas, which plays South Dakota at home and Coastal Carolina and Duke on the road in the nation’s second-roughest schedule.
• Penn State’s schedule is seventh-toughest among 14 Big Ten teams (26th in the nation) and West Virginia is second-easiest in the Big 12 (22nd most difficult in the nation). Penn State plays Ball State, Auburn and Villanova outside the Big Ten (all at Beaver Stadium). WVU plays Maryland on the road and Long Island and Virginia Tech in Morgantown.