Fans and those inside the Pitt football program have had the 2016 season circled in red for several years. September 10 will see the Panthers’ first game against Penn State since 2000, kicking off a four-year renewal of the storied intrastate rivalry.
That’s hardly the only anticipated date in Pitt’s second year under coach Pat Narduzzi. The ACC released its 2016 football schedule Tuesday and revealed a difficult slate from start to finish for Pitt, including a late-season road game Nov. 12 against defending national runner-up Clemson.
“As a competitor, you want to be challenged by playing the best,” Narduzzi said in a statement. “Our 2016 opponents will certainly present us with that opportunity. Whether you are a Pitt player, coach or fan, you can’t help but be fired up when looking at this schedule.”
The Panthers were 6-2 in conference play in 2015, Narduzzi’s first at the helm. They lost to Navy, 44-28, in the Military Bowl to finish 8-5, the team’s most wins since 2010.
Pitt’s non-conference slate, which was previously announced, includes home games against Penn State, Football Championship Subdivision program Villanova (Sept. 3) and Conference USA’s Marshall (Oct. 1), and a road trip to Stillwater, Okla., for the Panthers’ first matchup with Oklahoma State (Sept. 17) in school history.
It’ll be a tough stretch for the Panthers, playing back-to-back road games against the Cowboys, who were 10-3 in 2015, and opening ACC play the following week with a Sept. 24 game at North Carolina. The Tar Heels, who hold a three-game winning streak against Pitt, were 11-3 in 2015 and lost to Clemson in the ACC title game.
The Panthers, who played two weekday games in 2015, will face Virginia Tech in a nationally televised Thursday night game Oct. 27 at Heinz Field. They also will play host to Georgia Tech (Oct. 8), Duke (Nov. 19) and Syracuse (Nov. 26) to round out a seven-game home schedule.
Pitt’s final road game likely will be its toughest, as the Panthers travel to Clemson to face the defending ACC champion Tigers, who were undefeated in 2015 before losing to Alabama Jan. 11 in the College Football Playoff national championship. Clemson brings back emerging superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson, who finished third in the most recent Heisman Trophy race.
Pitt’s lone previous meeting against Clemson was a 34-3 Panthers victory in the 1977 Gator Bowl.
Game times have not yet been announced, but season ticket packages will be made available to the general public Feb. 8 and can be purchased through Pitt’s ticket office or online.
“Our 2016 schedule has a great mix of traditional rivalries and compelling new opponents,” Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes said in a statement. “We’re pleased that we get to play four of our first six games at home before mid-October.”
Pitt’s 2016 schedule:
Sept. 3 — Villanova; Sept. 10 — Penn State; Sept. 17 — at Oklahoma State; Sept. 24 — at North Carolina; Oct. 1 — Marshall; Oct. 8 — Georgia Tech; Oct. 15 — at Virginia; Oct. 22 — Off week; Oct. 27 (Thu.) — Virginia Tech; Nov. 5 — at Miami; Nov. 12 — at Clemson; Nov. 19 — Duke; Nov. 26 — Syracuse
Stephen J. Nesbitt: email@example.com and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.
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