Next up: Pitt.
OFFENSE: Another new coach and another new scheme figured to present its challenges for an offense that had been through seemingly everything the previous two years. And while Paul Chryst's simplified, pro-style attack better suited fifth-year quarterback Tino Sunseri, there were still some loose ends, especially early in the season. The passing offense improved, from 77th nationally to 46th. Pitt went from No. 88 to No. 71 in total offense, and from No. 83 to No. 74 in scoring offense. Sunseri, for all of his troubles, did improve remarkably in his final year, going 271 straight pass attempts without an interception since Week 3, before his second pass of the BBVA Compass Bowl was picked off by Ole Miss' Senquez Golson. Sunseri finished the season 21 touchdown passes and just three picks, and Ray Graham bounced back nicely from an ACL tear to rush for 1,042 yards and 11 touchdowns. Devin Street added 975 yards receiving and five scores, but the offensive line again had its troubles, surrendering 2.92 sacks per game, good for 102nd nationally. GRADE: B-.
DEFENSE: The Panthers' defense made tremendous strides in Year 1 under coordinator Dave Huxtable. Problem is, Huxtable won't be around in Year 2 to build off that effort, as he moves on to North Carolina State. Pitt went from 35th to 17th nationally in total defense, from 38th to 23rd nationally in scoring D, and from 72nd to 20th nationally in passing D. Pitt made a very nice turnaround after a terrible start to the season, when it gave up 31 points to FCS Youngstown State and 34 to rival Cincinnati. In winning three of their next five games, the Panthers surrendered 17 or fewer points four times, and they had Notre Dame in a 20-6 fourth-quarter hole before a late collapse. Holding Rutgers and South Florida to nine combined points put a nice bow on a regular season that started off on the wrong foot, as the two wins made Pitt bowl-eligible. GRADE: B+.
OVERALL: The usual growing pains ultimately left the Panthers with the same 6-7 record in their final Big East season as they had one year earlier, with both campaigns ending with losses in Birmingham, Ala. The Panthers were lucky that Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez chose not to pursue Chryst when the Badgers' head-coaching position opened, but they still don't have a replacement at defensive coordinator since Huxtable left more than month ago. They failed to close out a number of games -- including second-half leads against BCS-bowl teams Louisville and Notre Dame -- but the team's response after an awful start to the era speaks highly of their belief in Chryst, who will enter Year 2 as an ACC coach. GRADE: B-.
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