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Key stretch: Pittsburgh

This is the third part in a series examining the most crucial stretches of the schedule for each Big East team. Today, it's Pitt's turn.

Key stretch: at Connecticut (Nov. 11), at South Florida (Nov. 20), West Virginia (Nov. 26), at Cincinnati (Dec. 4)

Breakdown: Pitt must traverse a tricky schedule in order to live up to its billing as one of the Big East's favorite this year.

The Panthers finish the season with three of their final four games on the road, including at top conference contenders UConn and Cincinnati. Pitt barely escaped the Huskies at home last year and haven't been able to get past the Bearcats the past two seasons. Throw in a late-year trip to South Florida -- where Skip Holtz's system will have had time to marinate and mature -- and then the Backyard Brawl after a short week, and this is about as difficult a closing kick as any league team could ask for.

Even if Dave Wannstedt's team takes care of the first three of these obstacles, ending the year in Nippert Stadium with a conference title potentially on the line is no easy task.

Prediction: Many believe this will be the year Pitt breaks through under Wannstedt. If so, the Panthers will have to go at least 3-1 in this stretch. They've been pretty good against South Florida and match up well with UConn. I think Pittsburgh should win both of those games and split the final two.

Previous key stretches:

Cincinnati

West Virginia