1. James Conner could move to defensive end- When Rushel Shell transferred from Pitt, fans and media acted like Jim Brown left the program, yet even though Conner is proving to be better as a freshman people either expect him to move to defense or that he will be immediately passed up by Chris James. First of all, Conner is not moving anywhere. Secondly, James is very good and may even have the talent to move past Conner on the depth chart next season. But make no mistake about it, Conner has the talent to be a big time back. In his freshman season, Shell ended his freshman season with 641 yards, a 4.5 average, and 4 touchdowns. If Conner plays in 12 of Pitt's 13 games (if the Panthers make a bowl), like Shell did last year, he projects to 696 yards, a 4.8 average, and 9 touchdowns.
2. Pitt doesn't have the same talent as their opponents this season- "They don't have the talent this season to do better than what they've done!" is a common stance taken by many Pitt fans but it just isn't true. Florida State is the only team on the schedule that has a lot more talent than the Panthers this season. And you have to say that despite a ton of injuries, that Notre Dame has more talent also. Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech are two teams that some may think have a lot more talent than Pitt but that's just not true. The Hokies just lost to Duke, Boston College, and Maryland in the last month, and have the No. 101 offense in the country. Georgia Tech is 6-4 with games against Alabama A&M and Georgia looming, which could make them 7-5 this season. Good, but not exactly excellent. And anybody that saw how bad Pitt was in that game, and still almost won, could tell you that Georgia Tech isn't an excellent team. Duke is having a Cinderella season but let's be honest, they don't have the talent that Pitt has, or at the very least the talent is equal. North Carolina has equal talent, while New Mexico, Virginia, Old Dominion, and Navy have less. Bottom line, against better talent the Panthers are 1-1, against lesser talent they are 3-1, and against teams that have roughly equal talent the Panthers are 1-3. None of those records are really surprising. Notre Dame and Duke (since it was on the road) were good wins, and road losses at Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech weren't bad losses because they were on the road. Only North Carolina at home and Navy on the road could be considered unnecessary losses. If Pitt won those two very winnable games the Panthers 7-3 this year and the fans are excited about the future.
3. The Panthers are too young- Not so fast, my friend. Of Pitt's 22 starters, 19 are either upperclassmen or were starters last year. The three exceptions are Tyler Boyd, Artie Rowell, and Adam Bisnowaty. In fact, the team will be even younger next season with eight starters leaving, including Devin Street, Tom Savage, Aaron Donald, K'Waun Williams, and Jason Hendricks. That's a lot of experienced talent leaving meaning the Panthers may be worse before they get better. By the way, by comparison North Carolina had eight underclassmen in their victory over the Panthers, including six on offense. Georgia Tech had seven underclassmen starting. Pitt has five. Bottom line, the players who actually play for Pitt aren't any younger than anybody else.
4. Chad Voytik may not be the starter for long next season- This is a strange one because at the moment there is nobody even close to starting over Voytik next season. I've heard fans say that Wade Freebeck will be Pitt's future quarterback, maybe even next season. Thankfully Adam Bertke is injured because if he had a big season I'm sure people would have him as a starter next season too. The truth is, Voytik was a better prospect than either coming out of high school, and he's light years ahead with two years of college practice experience under his belt. Both Freebeck and Bertke are at least two years away from having a legit shot at supplanting Voytik because both have a ways to go in their development. In fact, both are considered projects. I'm not saying that either Freebeck or Bertke, or both, couldn't eventually be excellent, and I'm not saying that Voytik will succeed. But Voytik better succeed because his development, or lack thereof, may determine if Paul Chryst is around for year five.
5. Pitt is cheap- I know a lot of Pitt fans believe this one but it's not entirely true. Do they spend the money that the upper echelon programs spend? No. But they still spend more than most. Pitt is not a football power because they don't spend the big time money of elite programs like Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, etc. That's the decision that they've made. They've decided to be at the second level of programs and they've spent money at that level. In fact, as far as spending money for the football program, Pitt's expenses are in the top 20 in the country. All the more reason why not hiring a quality staff under Paul Chryst is perplexing.
6. There is a lack of local talent- For many decades the WPIAL was considered one of the best hotbeds in the country for college football prospects. Is it as good now? No. But it's still pretty good. Maybe one of the biggest misconceptions of Pitt recruiting is that the Panthers loaded up on WPIAL talent in their glory days. The truth is, they signed roughly eight or so WPIAL prospects a year, the same as now. The difference is, that Pitt no longer gets the best ones. If the Panthers got just six this season and got Dravon Henry, Alex Bookser, Shai McKenzie, Montae Nicholson, Chase Winovich, and Malik Hooker, then that's quite a haul. Last year it would have been Robert Foster, Dorian Johnson, Tyler Boyd, Patrick Kugler, and Scott Orndoff. Future WPIAL stars include Sterling Jenkins, Jordan Whitehead, Kareen Gibson, Jeremiah Jones, Miles Sanders, Kaezon Pugh, and Aaron Williams. The point is, if you get the top half a dozen WPIAL prospects like Pitt did in the past, there's still plenty of talent to be a top 25 team in most years.