Pittsburgh — Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi didn’t throw the ACC Coastal Division standings up on the wall during his team’s annual Sunday night meeting.
There was no need. Narduzzi is well aware his players know where the Panthers (5-4, 4-1 ACC) sit heading into Saturday’s visit from Virginia Tech (4-4, 3-2): in first place and in control of their own destiny.
“I’m not going to address it,” Narduzzi, the former Michigan State defensive coordinator, said Monday. “There’s still a bunch of hungry teams sitting below us. Doesn’t really matter. I know they read on Twitter all that stuff. I guess I don’t have to address it.”
Maybe, but that it’s even a topic of discussion is a testament to Pitt’s resiliency.
Narduzzi raised eyebrows when he told a group of fans at a kickoff luncheon in August to keep the first weekend of December open so they could plan a trip to Charlotte for the ACC title game. It’s a possibility that seemed remote at best after the Panthers were drilled by Penn State and Central Florida and then suffered a baffling loss to North Carolina, all in September.
And yet the Panthers have responded brilliantly, winning shootouts and defensive struggles alike during their three-game conference winning streak. Their taut 23-13 victory at Virginia last Friday may have been the closest they have come all season to fitting Narduzzi’s definition of “Pitt football.”
Darrin Hall ran for 229 yards and three touchdowns. The defense sacked Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins five times. Alex Kessman drilled a 53-yard field goal and the Panthers pushed the Cavaliers around on the road.
“(It’s) kind of what you want,” Narduzzi said. “(An) old-school game. That’s who we are, what the city of Pittsburgh is.”
Still, Narduzzi stressed it’s far too early for the Panthers to think they’ve arrived.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” he said. “We’ve got a long way to go. Premature victories are no good.”
The road to the ACC championship, however, doesn’t look quite as daunting as it did six weeks ago. Virginia Tech’s bumpy resume includes losses to Old Dominion, Georgia Tech and Boston College. Wake Forest will play the rest of the year without injured starting quarterback Sam Hartman and Miami — the preseason pick to roll in the Coastal — is closer to last place than to first.
All of which makes Pitt the favorite — or the closest thing to one — at getting a shot at the ACC’s Atlantic Division champion Dec. 1. Heady territory for a group that has faced one of the most difficult schedules around.
“I don’t think anybody has played five Top 25 football teams in the country, which we have,” Narduzzi said. “We faced five of them so far. Wasn’t an easy schedule. Everybody knew it wasn’t an easy schedule coming into the year. After the game is over, no one says, ‘But it’s a hard schedule.’ What other way would you want it?”
New HOF class unveiled
John Taylor from Delaware State and Hugh Douglas from Central State are among the seven new inductees to the Black College Football Hall of Fame.
Joining Taylor and Douglas in the 10th class are Emerson Boozer of Maryland Eastern Shore; Rich “Tombstone” Jackson from Southern; Frank Lewis from Grambling State; Timmy Newsome from Winston-Salem State; and Arnett “Ace” Mumford, who coached Southern to 11 Southwestern Athletic Conference championships.
The induction ceremony is Feb. 16 at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
Falcon on mend
An Air Force falcon named Aurora is resting and the school remains optimistic for a recovery after she was injured at West Point during a prank before the annual rivalry football game.
The 22-year-old bird keeps showing signs of improvement. Academy spokesman Meade Warthen said Monday they “expect her to recover.” She flew around her pen Sunday.
Army officials at West Point apologized and are investigating.
Florida State needed to shake things up so Willie Taggart has turned over the play-calling duties to his offensive coordinator.
Taggart said “he’s not a big ego guy” and after a rocky start in his first season as the Seminoles (4-5, 2-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) coach, he let offensive coordinator Walt Bell call plays in the 47-28 loss at N.C. State.
Despite losing, Bell will call the shots against this week against third-ranked Notre Dame (9-0, No. 4 CFP).
... Florida coach Dan Mullen will take a few more days before settling on a starting quarterback against South Carolina.
Feleipe Franks or Kyle Trask will get the nod when the 19th-ranked Gators (6-3, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) host the Gamecocks (5-3, 4-3) on Saturday. Mullen also didn’t rule out freshman Emory Jones.
Week 11 top games
■ Ohio State at Michigan State, noon (Fox)
■ South Carolina at Florida, noon (ESPN)
■ TCU at West Virginia,noon (FS1)
■ Wisconsin at Penn State, noon (ABC)
■ Michigan at Rutgers,3:30 (BTN)
■ Mississippi State at Alabama, 3:30 (CBS)
■ Oklahoma State at Oklahoma, 3:30 (ABC)
■ Washington State at Colorado, 3:30 (ESPN)
■ Auburn at Georgia, 7 (ESPN)
■ Florida State at Notre Dame, 7:30 (NBC)
■ Clemson at Boston College, 8 (ABC)