Panthers looking for momentum, bowl berth at USF

Associated Press Modified: November 26, 2012 at 4:32 pm •  Published: November 26, 2012
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PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mike Shanahan isn't picky. The Pittsburgh senior wide receiver will settle for a bowl game — any bowl game — if the Panthers can get eligible with a victory on Saturday at South Florida.

Yes, Birmingham included.

The Panthers (5-6, 2-4 Big East) have traveled to Alabama each of the last two Januarys for the BBVA Compass Bowl. There's a shot they could make it three straight if they find a way to beat the reeling Bulls (3-8, 1-5).

As monotonous as it sounds, considering the bumpy path the program has traveled during Shanahan's career, he'll take it.

"Well, it's a blessing to go anywhere, I guess," Shanahan said. "But if we've got to go back there we'll try to win again. So, it'll be all right."

Playing good football hasn't been an issue for Pitt this season. Playing good football consistently is another matter entirely.

The Panthers' emphatic 27-6 thumping of Rutgers last Saturday was their second win over a ranked team this season and the fourth time they've played a quality opponent tight.

Pitt came closer than anyone else did this season of unseating top-ranked Notre Dame, falling to the Fighting Irish in triple overtime earlier this month. Yet the Panthers have also lost to the likes of Youngstown State and Connecticut while looking uninspired in wins over Buffalo and Gardner-Webb.

"Every game there's a fine line and you have to play good football and do the things that lead to winning games," coach Paul Chryst said. "I think it is a fine line and I've always believed that. I don't know if it's more now, than before."

It's one the Panthers need to be on the winning side of one more time to assure themselves of a fifth straight bowl berth.

The extra month of practice a bowl game would provide could do wonders for the underclassmen who will lead the charge next fall when Pitt moves from the Big East to the ACC.

It would also provide a nice send-off to a senior class that saw the program go through four different head coaches — six if you count interims — and a conference move that precipitated a realignment craze that is changing the face of college athletics.