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NCAA Football ACC FootballPittsburgh Panthers

2013 Pittsburgh Panthers Hope to Make Good First Impression in ACC

Kelly Lambert- USA TODAY Sports

It was rumored that first-year Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst would bolt to his alma matter Wisconsin after Bret Bielema suddenly left for Arkansas. Chryst returning to Madison seemed like a logical option seeing that he played and coached the Badgers before joining Pitt last December.

However, Chryst quickly dispelled the rumors that he would leave to take the Wisconsin opening, and it could not have been better news for Pittsburgh. Even though Pitt was up and down in 2012, finishing with a 6-7 record including a loss to Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl, but there’s reason for optimism heading into the 2013 season.

The Panthers will be embarking on their first season in their new conference as they make the switch from the Big East to the ACC. A fresh start could be exactly what Pitt needs after back-to-back 6-7 seasons as well as losing their top three offensive weapons, as QB Tino Sunseri, RB Ray Graham and WR Mike Shanahan will all graduate this spring.

There will be an interesting QB battle this spring between transfer Tom Savage, a former All-American, and redshirt freshman Chad Voytik, a four-star recruit from their 2012 recruiting class. Pitt fans will look forward to seeing a new guy under center as Sunseri’s inconsistencies drove them crazy. Whomever wins the QB competition during spring ball will be a solid upgrade from Sunseri and Pitt fans will welcome him with open arms.

Pitt was a tough team to peg in 2012 as they beat Virginia Tech, Rutgers and almost upsetting Notre Dame but they also lost to UConn and Youngstown State. Will they be able to take that next step in 2013 as they join their new conference? It remains to be seen but their schedule will not be very forgiving.

Their home games look like this: Florida State, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia, Villanova, New Mexico and Notre Dame. Pitt’s away games in 2013 are against Duke, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Navy.

It’s a tough schedule but the best way to enter a new conference is full steam ahead and that’s what Pitt’s schedule will allow them to do. They’ll have to be on their A-game every week but the new conference will no doubt spark some excitement in the steel city.

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David LaRose is one of the featured College Football writers for Rant Sports covering the Pac 12 and the University of Colorado. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his Facebook page.