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As Penn State was struggling its way through a mediocre season, the Pitt Panthers were enjoying a run to the school’s first ACC championship. Pitt’s ACC championship season ended in a loss to Michigan State in the Peach Bowl, although the Panthers were playing without star quarterback Kenny Pickett. Had Pickett played against the Spartans, odds are good Pitt would have had stood a better chance of topping Michigan State, which led to a somewhat eye-catching quote from Narduzzi during ACC media days.
“If that’s one of the best Big Ten teams, let’s go to the Big Ten and win it every year,” Narduzzi said, referring to the Spartans. Michigan State was one of the best teams in the Big Ten in 2021, finishing in third place in the Big Ten East behind College Football Playoff-bound Big Ten champion Michigan and Rose Bowl champion Ohio State.
Pat Narduzzi says Michigan State would’ve gotten its "butt kicked in” if Kenny Pickett played.
“If that’s one of the best Big Ten teams, let’s go to the Big Ten and win it every year.” https://t.co/nEGLhxj7E1
— Dustin Schutte (@SchutteSports) July 21, 2022
Well, that is certainly a bold statement to make for a head coach who owns a career record of 1-6 against Big Ten teams with five straight losses in head-0to-head matchups against the conference. After hanging on to beat Penn State in 2016 in the renewal of the in-state rivalry, Pitt has been outscored by Big Ten opponents 163-75. Penn State did a big chunk of that damage in a 51-6 rout of Narduzzi’s Panthers in Pittsburgh before a national primetime audience in 2018.
While it is fair to suggest Pitt was hurt by not having its Heisman Trophy-finalist quarterback, it should also be noted Michigan State was playing without Doak Walker Award running back Kenneth Walker III either. Both Pickett and Walker opted out of the bowl game.
Considering the kind of season Pickett had for the Panthers, Narduzzi may be right in believing his team would have topped the Spartans in last season’s Peach Bowl. But was Narduzzi subtly stumping for Pitt to make a move to the Big Ten? Nah, probably not.
Having Penn State and Pitt in the same conference would certainly be great for the in-state rivalry, which is now sitting on the shelf for the foreseeable future after the two schools completed the four-year revival of the series in 2018. There are no talks of the series being continued anytime soon and future scheduling and conference realignment changes are making it more and more challenging to see happening.
But if Narduzzi wants that smoke, it sure would be fun to see if he could back it up.
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