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Is Pitt a College Football Playoff contender?

ESPN Insider Travis Haney has put together his list of playoff contenders with the easiest schedules in the countryInsider, and the most difficult schedulesInsider in the country.

It's no surprise that Haney lists Florida State under the toughest schedules section. Games against Oklahoma State, Clemson, Notre Dame, Louisville, Miami and Florida would get any school on that list.

But in the easiest schedules post, Haney has included another ACC team that is a bit surprising.

Pitt. At No. 2. Behind Ohio State.

Wait. Pitt ... a College Football Playoff contender? Even Haney agrees the notion sounds a bit far-fetched. Hear him out for a sec ...

In their second year in the ACC, the Panthers don't play Clemson or Florida State, or even newcomers Louisville and Notre Dame.

You see the moderately challenging games above, but the overall schedule is really a healthy game of dodgeball as Paul Chryst works to elevate the program in the new league. ... So maybe it isn't all that far-fetched. Duke proved the Coastal Division can be taken by surprise, and if Pitt gets in a one-game scenario in the title game, who knows?

I completely agree that Pitt has the potential to surprise some teams in 2014 and is a dark horse to win the Coastal. But I have to disagree with my good friend on another point. It is hard to list Pitt as a playoff contender, especially ahead of the aforementioned Duke Blue Devils -- who have an even easier schedule than the Panthers. Duke's four nonconference opponents last season combined for a .367 winning percentage, and the Blue Devils also escape playing Florida State, Clemson, Notre Dame and Louisville.

Plus, Duke ends the season with three straight home games against Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest. Duke is not a fluke. The Blue Devils won 10 games last season and have the capability of doing the same again with eight returning starters on offense and many key contributors back on defense. There are simply fewer question marks surrounding Duke than there are around Pitt headed into spring.

Pitt certainly is an intriguing team to keep an eye on, but here is one other point to remember. Let's say the Panthers do run the table and become a playoff contender. They will have to go from unranked to Top 4 in the College Football Playoff without having a single ranked team on the schedule (at season's start, anyway). The easy schedule that Haney says could favor Pitt could end up hurting the Panthers if they do not have a bushel of quality wins -- especially since strength of schedule will be a key factor when weighing playoff considerations.