Wannstedt downplays favorite tag

NEWPORT, R.I. -- Not long after his team was named a near-consensus favorite to win the 2010 Big East title, Dave Wannstedt started doing what most coaches in his position would do: playing down expectations.

While Pitt received 22 out of a possible 24 first-place votes in the annual media poll -- the most since Louisville in 2005 -- Wannstedt pointed out that Cincinnati is the two-time defending champion.

"That's who we're chasing," Wannstedt said. "And there's any of four or five teams that are capable of winning our conference."

Wannstedt also highlighted the fact that he has only four seniors starting right now and nine seniors on scholarship, saying it was his youngest team at Pitt. The media, however, saw Pitt's 10-win season a year ago and some of the league's brightest talent, like reigning offensive player of the year Dion Lewis, co-defensive player of the year Greg Romeus and star receiver Jonathan Baldwin. Pitt brought five players to Newport -- left tackle Jason Pinkston and safety Dom DeCicco were the others -- and all five have been nominated to various national awards lists this preseason.

"But I think we still have a lot of holes to fill," Wannstedt said. "It's not an individual game; it's a team game. The challenge will be putting a team together."

The Panthers have questions on their interior offensive line, linebacker and tight end, and they will have a first-year starting quarterback in Tino Sunseri. Their overall talent level remains extremely high, though, as well as their expectations. Question is, can Pitt meet them?

"Last year, we were sitting here as the No. 1 team in the preseason, too, and we didn't finish where we wanted," Romeus said. "So we have to understand this is a preseason thing, and we have to step up and prove that we're the best team in the conference."