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Toughest stretch: Pittsburgh

6/16/2014

Not all schedules are created equal. That's life in college football. Each slate does, however, present its own set of challenges. We're taking a look at the toughest stretches that each ACC team will face in 2014, periods that could help determine their fate in the upcoming season.

PITTSBURGH

Toughest stretch: Nov. 15-29 (at North Carolina, vs. Syracuse, at Miami)

Why: It’s a little tough to pick out a toughest streak for the Panthers, as their schedule sets up perfectly for a run to the ACC championship game. The Panthers avoid Clemson and Florida State, allowing for much more wiggle room for a loss to a Coastal counterpart. As far as Pitt even making a run toward the Top 25, Pitt’s nonconference schedule includes Akron, Delaware, FIU and Iowa, which means they avoid Notre Dame in the ACC rotation as well.

Those nonconference games are all within the season’s first five weeks, but the Panthers need to finish the season strong if they’re to win the Coastal Division. North Carolina and Miami are among the favorites to represent the division in the conference championship, and Pittsburgh must play both on the road. This stretch also begins following a home game against Duke, and while Pitt bested the Blue Devils last season, this is not the same old Duke team everyone came to know on the gridiron.

The positive with these games coming late in the season is it allows for Chad Voytik to grow more comfortable as the new leader of the offense. Tom Savage is off to the NFL, and the Panthers are tasked with replacing the solid, if unspectacular, quarterback. Voytik stepped in for an injured Savage in the bowl game and played admirably. If Voytik plays with the confidence he did that December night, he could be a sleeper All-ACC selection and provide the type of offense capable of knocking off North Carolina and Miami in November.