Oltmanns: Pitt will win Big East, go to BCS Bowl

By Alex Oltmanns

I hate to say I told you so, and I’m sorry for the cliché. But I told you so.

About one… I hate to say I told you so, and I’m sorry for the cliché. But I told you so.

About one month ago, I wrote a column saying how the Pitt football team, 1-2 at the time, would bounce back in league play and earn a BCS bowl bid by winning the conference.

Well, now — at 3-0 in the Big East and already essentially two games up on the second place teams in the conference — the Panthers look to be in a great position to do just that.

After completely dismantling Syracuse, Rutgers and Louisville, Pitt looks like a completely different team than the one that failed to even get in the end zone during a 31-3 loss to Miami.

Following that loss, senior defensive end Jabaal Sheard said the team had to fix some things, and Sheard is leading that charge toward continued improvement.

With two more sacks against the Cardinals, Sheard has nine for the season. This puts him at the top of the Big East and makes him fifth in the nation in that category, despite his consistently being double-teamed, and sometimes even triple-teamed.

Offensively, quarterback Tino Sunseri seemingly has been maturing with every game, establishing himself as a team leader.

Dion Lewis is looking more like the Lewis we knew last season and the offensive line is much improved, this all to go along with a defense that has been flying to the ball, giving up just three points and 185 yards of offense in Pitt’s last game against Louisville.

But the improvement goes beyond just specific players — the whole team has rededicated itself to winning.

And some young players have stepped up.

Redshirt freshman receiver Devin Street made a statement in Big East play right off the bat when he caught a screen pass on the offense’s first play and then took it 79 yards for a touchdown against Syracuse.

Those types of efforts have put the Panthers atop the Big East, a league that is weaker than usual this season and has seen two of its more high-profile teams (West Virginia and Cincinnati) suffer two conference losses already.

With those teams both at 1-2, the only team besides Pitt in the conference with more than one win is Syracuse, which the Panthers easily took care of.

It doesn’t look like Pitt’s dominance of its Big East opponents is going to stop any time soon.

Connecticut is up next for the Panthers and the Huskies are a team that couldn’t even score a single point in a 26-0 loss to Louisville.

So to put it simply, there’s no way any team in the league is going to catch Pitt in the standings.

Things are only going to get better for the Panthers.

All-American defensive end Greg Romeus is set to return to the lineup soon, and combined with Sheard and his backup Brandon Lindsey, who has eight sacks, Pitt will wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.

So get out your bowling shoes, because Pitt’s going to a BCS game.