If there is one thing Coach Wannstedt would love to do, it is having a winning season, going to a bowl, and not having to fire any of his assistant coaches. After the Bowling Green game, that seemed to be a dream that he would never realize. Despite a victory against Buffalo, our Panthers still showed the same problems that we not only saw one week before, but the same problems we have been seeing for 3 years. It was finally starting to happen that the strong Wannstedt supporters were becoming more in favor of replacing the coach.
Prior to this season the best way to describe our fan base was "half and half". There were those in Group A who felt that Wannstedt would be a good coach at Pitt and that all he needed was more time so that he could get his players in to his system. Group B consisted of members who were tired of 3 straight losing seasons and often cited Wannstedt's struggles at Miami, Chicago, and Pitt to warrant his departure.
Following week 1 of the season, the "half and half" group became more of an 80-20 split, with 80% of Panther fans feeling that it was time for a change. Even the remaining 20%, while still in favor of Wannstedt, were agreeing with the other group that there had to be some change, especially with Matt Cavanaugh.
As we are entering week 3 of the NCAA football season, it is looking more and more like the 80% group may not get their wish, and here is why.
Last night UNC, destroyed Rutgers at home. Last week, ECU manhandled a top 10 WVU team. Pitt lost to a MAC team in the home opener.
It is no secret, the Big East is awful this season. After completing 2 weeks of football, only USF and UConn are the only remaining undefeated teams in the conference. Syracuse and Rutgers still do not have a win. Syracuse lost to Northwestern and Akron, but things don't get any better as they travel to Penn State this weekend. While I predict Syracuse will finish 1-11 (only beating Northeastern) they could easily get 4 wins from their schedule based upon the overall weakness of the teams in the conference.
Rutgers has two cupcakes left on their schedule, but outside of those games, they stand a good chance of losing out the rest of the way. Louisville plays a mediocre schedule, but the rest of the teams they play are all D1 schools. They are just like Pitt this season, they could have any where from 4 to 8 wins. Cincinnati has a few MAC/CUSA games before they enter Big East play, but despite being dominated Oklahoma they may stand a chance to do fairly well. They are a middle of the road Big East team, but that might just be good enough to finish 2nd or 3rd this year. UConn could barely beat Temple, but as we saw last year, they can surprise some people. It will be interesting to see how they perform at North Carolina to compare to Rutgers.
For the South Florida Bulls. They should be the Big East BCS representative this year. Outside of Kansas, they do not have any tough teams on their schedule. 9-3 or 10-2 is a record they should achieve this year which will be good enough to clinch the Big East title.
So what does this mean for our Panthers? Well it's simple. Since everyone is down and every game is winnable, Wannstedt can show progress. People have grown so accustomed to losing that all people are hoping for is a bowl appearance. Our schedule should allow us to win 7 games. They won't be the most fun to watch, they will be tight close games, but they will be victories.
When this team finishes 7-5, we will hear about how we made great strides, and how the team is coming around as expected. I also believe that 7-5 will split the two Panther groups back to "Half and Half". Most importantly though, 7 wins and a bowl appearance in what might be the worst conference in America will allow Matt Cavanaugh to keep his job as well as to encourage Dave Wannstedt to stick with the current design for the offense and defense.
The worst thing Panther fans can hope for is 7 close wins since nothing will change. 8 or more wins will give us hope for the future. 6 or less will require some type of change. My only hope is that we do not remain stagnant.