Pitt Bye Week Notebook

Ever since it was announced that Pitt would play Cincinnati for the Big East title at noon Dec. 5 at Heinz Field, Pitt's noon kickoff against Cincinnati Dec. 5 at Heinz Field has received mixed reviews from the Panthers' fans.

However, since the game will be a national broadcast on ABC-TV, Pittsburgh actually couldn't have done any better with the other game times being set. While he said the team should be ready no matter what, Panthers head coach Dave Wannstedt has a few ideas concerning the fans.

"We've played well at noon, and we've played well at night,'' Wannstedt said. "It really doesn't make any difference what I would like. We just have to deal with it, and we will. ... We'll be ready to play when we wake up that Saturday morning no matter what the time.

"It's more for the fans than probably the team. So, I might have to go over there and drive through Oakland and start banging on dorm windows with a noon kickoff. We're going to have to get our students up early and get them going. That's going to be a must.

"So, maybe I should talk to the Chancellor and put a curfew on the entire university the night before the game so everybody is able to wake up early,'' Wannstedt added. "But, generally, it won't affect us. We'll be ready to play in that game no matter what time it is.''

That's been about the extent of Wannstedt's talk about the Bearcats. Pitt has not looked past West Virginia, even though a loss to the Mountaineers won't affect the Big East title race. The Panthers have taken things one game at a time all season, and they aren't about to start something different now.

"The more you win, the bigger each game becomes,'' Wannstedt said. "That's a given, but it just so happens that the way our schedule is the teams that are playing the best football are at the end of our schedule. So, we have to just deal with it one week at a time, like we've done all year. We haven't got ahead of ourselves, and we won't get ahead of ourselves.

"We're just looking at West Virginia ... and when we get to Cincinnati we'll do the same thing. When you look back at how our season started, our scheduling probably was for the first time as good as it's been. We started off with Youngstown State, moved up to Buffalo and Navy and N.C. State. So, we got a little better week after week after week.''

A Two-Game Season Wannstedt knows that the WVU matchup, the 102nd Backyard Brawl, will be emotional for many reasons. So, there won't be much specific work on the Mountaineers until Sunday when the team returns from a two-day break.

Still, these last two games for Pitt will be its most difficult stretch this season.

"I don't know if we'll have the toughest, but it has to be close to the toughest final two games as anyone in the country with West Virginia and Cincinnati,'' Wannstedt said. "So, we'll take this bye week to clean some things up, to try to improve in certain areas and try to get some guys back healthy. (And) then we'll look more seriously at West Virginia.''

The Panthers are on a roll with six straight victories and a 9-1 start for the first time since 1982, and that's right where Wannstedt wants them to be.

"I've said this all year long, we want to be playing our best football our last game,'' Wannstedt said. "And to do that it's important to practice hard every week and keep working on your skills and fundamentals and try to improve every week. Now, you have to change game plan to game plan, but the fundamental things won't change.''

Getting Back To Class Wannstedt has made a practice of using bye weeks to check on his student-athletes academic progress by wandering through campus, and that's been the case at times this past week.

"I enjoy that, but ... I do it to let the players know, No. 1, that it's important,'' Wannstedt said. "And I also think it's good to get on campus a little bit. With us being removed (at the practice facility), I don't have as many opportunities as I would like to just walk through the Cathedral and walk through campus.

"So, it's a nice opportunity for me to do that during the season. I can see a few of the professors that come to the games, and I have a chance to interact with them. So, it's all good.''

Wannstedt participated in classes before, mostly by giving a speech, but he didn't get that opportunity this year. Last year, he passed on that chance.

"A professor asked me if I had anything to say, and I think it was a computer math class,'' Wannstedt noted. "So, I definitely didn't have anything to add to that one.''

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