Pitt Ranking Only The Beginning

Dave Wannstedt has downplayed the national rankings and the Panthers place in them all season, but the Pitt head coach was the first person to inform his team that it cracked the top 10 during its Sunday meeting.

And, not coincidentally, after Wannstedt told the Pittsburgh players their ranking, the Panthers were relatively subdued.

"When Coach Wannstedt came into our meetings (Sunday) night, he said that we were No. 8 and No. 9 in the polls, in the top 10,'' sixth-year senior Adam Gunn said. "We weren't shocked or anything like that. It's great, but we weren't overly enthusiastic about it, because we still have more to accomplish.

"We have to move on to Notre Dame. This is what we expect from ourselves. We're playing good football right now, but we have to keep it up. ... We know we're not there yet. We haven't done enough, and we're not happy. We won't be until the end of the season when we're Big East champs. Then, we can celebrate that, our ranking and going to a BCS bowl game.''

Pitt, 8-1 for the first time since 1982, faces 6-3 Notre Dame Saturday at 8 p.m. at Heinz Field. And after that start earned the Panthers a top-10 ranking this late in the season also for the first time since that season, Wannstedt finally had a positive comment about it.

"I'm excited,'' Wannstedt said. "It's a neat thing for our program. It's not going to help us (beat) Notre Dame. I know that, but it's good for recruiting. And, hopefully, it's good for alumni support. Those are the two things, really.

"(And) our players, it's a nice reward for them, but we've got three games left. (And) it doesn't have any bearing on anything that we have to do Saturday (against the Irish). It's good for the program (and) good notoriety.''

Wannstedt also noted that it was beneficial to have four Big East teams being ranked by at least one poll. Along with Pitt, ranked ninth in the USA Today coaches' poll and eighth in the Associated Press writers' poll, Cincinnati is rated fifth by the coaches, and West Virginia is 23rd.

South Florida re-entered the polls with a No. 24 ranking. In the AP voting, Cincy is fifth, and USF is 23rd. The Bearcats also are fifth in the BCS standings, but Pitt is 12th. USF is 24th, and WVU is 25th.

"I'd have to pull out my quote from August,'' Wannstedt recalled. "That's why I said what I said. Let's wait until December to see. We have good football teams (in the Big East Conference). We know that. (They're) as good as anybody around. Sometimes, things just have to take their course.''

Some might believe that the Panthers might wilt under the intense spotlight that occurs when playing against Notre Dame, but Wannstedt did not have any concerns with his Pitt team.

"Our kids are excited about playing in front of a good crowd and on TV, but we've done that this year,'' Wannstedt said. "I'm going to go back to the leadership of our team. We've got a very mature team. We had a good talk (Sunday) with the team.

"We're going to keep our feet on the ground. It's not going to be the people in the stands. It's not going to be the TV people. It's going to come down to blocking and tackling, (and) we've got to be ready to keep our focus on what will win this game for us.''

And as long as the Panthers keep winning, the national rankings and bowl bids certainly will take care of themselves.

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