In Context, Pitt Football Had Another Good Season in 2022

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Come with me on a hypothetical ride here for a moment.  Everything about this 2022 Pitt Football season remains the same.  The Panthers finish 8-4 overall, and 5-3 in the conference.  Their losses remain against the same opponents and their wins remain against the same opponents.  However, and this is where we begin the hypothetical part, Pitt plays the North Carolina Tar Heels in the final game of the regular season instead of Miami.

Both Pitt and UNC hypothetically come into that final game with a 5-2 record in the conference with a chance to win the Coastal division.  Pitt has an opportunity to play in the ACC Championship game two seasons in a row.  But, they lose a heartbreaking game on the road to the Tar Heels.  Calijah Kancey still gets ejected, Kedon Slovis still has a couple untimely turnovers, and it's a tough loss to a ranked division opponent on the road.  The Panthers miss the ACC Championship by one game. that not exactly what happened?  

Pitt still finished the season 8-4 overall and 5-3 in conference play.  They still missed going back to Charlotte by one game.  And they still did lose a heartbreaker to UNC because Calijah Kancey was ejected and we had some untimely turnovers.  It just didn't happen in the last game of the regular season.  It happened back in October.  And in my opinion, it totally changed how we felt about this 2022 regular season.

I think a lot of people were fooled by the idea that losing a Heisman finalist quarterback and the best wide receiver in the nation would not have as big of an impact on the Pitt Football program as a whole.  In fact, countless times this offseason I aggressively argued with those who were predicting a better season for Pitt in 2022 than what we enjoyed in 2021.  Sure, it was fine to have hoped that Pitt could win double-digit regular season games again, a feat that is very difficult for any Power 5 school, but to predict it, was maddening.  Especially given the circumstances.

The quarterback has become the most important position in all of American professional sports.  Pitt fans witnessed that last season when Kenny Pickett led us to the greatest Pitt football season of my lifetime.  He seemed to single-handedly win a game or two last season.  Pickett was a superstar in 2021.

It is also extremely valuable for a quarterback to have a weapon like Jordan Addison.  He was the best wide receiver in all of college football last season.  The combination of Pickett and Addison was an offensive force that could not be stopped.  That was evident as every team that tried to stop them, failed.

So why then were expectations so astronomically high after losing not one, but both of them?  Additionally, Pitt brought in a new Offensive Coordinator and Wide Receiver coach.  Plus, their 2022 non-conference schedule included a return of a bitter and emotional rivalry, and a Top 10 nationally ranked team from the SEC.   With that now fully in perspective, the 2022 Pitt football team had an objectively successful season.

Pitt finished the regular season with a record of 8-4.  Pitt has only won 8+ regular season games 8 other times since the year 2000, when they began consistently playing 12 regular season games.  So less than half of those seasons, but still a notable amount.

However, none of those seasons came immediately after losing a Heisman level quarterback and the best wide receiver in all of college football. This I know for sure because Pitt hasn't had either since Larry Fitzgerald graduated in 2003.  And we've never had a Heisman finalist QB before Pickett so this season was already entering with unprecedented circumstances.  

And regardless of who you did or did not lose to, 8 to 10 regular season wins as a Power 5 team is objectively an above average season.  No matter what Power 5 conference you are in, you are facing high level talent throughout your conference schedule.  Most teams still do celebrate becoming "bowl eligible" with six wins.  While that is below what I want the expectations for Pitt to be, eight wins is still nothing to scoff at in any season.

Also, our schedule did not end up being as easy as expected.  While you'll always have the Western Michigans and the Rhode Islands, we had several opponents that played above their expectations.  Tennessee, North Carolina, Syracuse, and Louisville all finished the season above their preseason expectations.  So the schedule did not end being filled with easy wins.

Now, I'm not here to blow rainbows and sunshine up anyone's behinds here.  Pitt still lost four games.  And the loss to Georgia Tech at home was terrible no matter which way you look at it.  There is no doubt about that.  So it is not a great season, but still a successful one. 

Unfortunately, we came into this season with such high expectations and Pitt did not meet them.  We also expected the clash for the ACC Coastal division to come in the last game against Miami, and not in October against North Carolina.  So if you put the full season in perspective and really break down how Pitt played given all of the circumstances, I am happy with calling the 2022 Pitt Football season a successful one.