Pitt football’s 2016 schedule full of opportunities, challenges | TribLIVE.com
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Jerry Dipaola
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi looks on during the national anthem before the Military Bowl on Monday, Dec. 28, 2015, in Annapolis, Md.

Pat Narduzzi’s second season as Pitt coach promises several difficult challenges but also repeated opportunities to gain national recognition.

The season starts Sept. 3 at Heinz Field against Villanova, an FCS team that finished tied for fourth place last season in the Colonial Athletic.

Then it’s four consecutive weeks of opponents who are more accustomed to winning than losing. It starts Sept. 10 at home with the first Pitt/Penn State game in 16 years. Then it’s a three-week stretch of foes that won at least 10 games last season: Big 12 power Oklahoma State (Sept. 17) and defending ACC Coastal champion North Carolina (Sept. 24) — both on the road — and Marshall (Oct. 1).

Pitt never has played Oklahoma State, which finished 10-3 last season. Marshall of Conference USA has averaged 11 victories over the past three seasons.

The schedule also features two notable venues where Pitt never has played: Stillwater, Okla., to face the Cowboys at T. Boone Pickens Stadium and Clemson, S.C., to play national runner-up Clemson on Nov. 12 in Death Valley.

No. 2 Clemson and No. 19 Oklahoma State are two of three Pitt opponents that finished last season ranked in the top 20. North Carolina finished 15th.

“As a competitor, you want to be challenged by playing the best,” Narduzzi said. “Our 2016 opponents will certainly present us with that opportunity. Whether you are a Pitt player, coach or fan, you can’t help but be fired up when looking at this schedule. It definitely provides our team with a ton of focus and motivation as we prepare for the upcoming fall.”

Pitt will play four of its seven home games before mid-October, and the Panthers close with Duke and Syracuse on Nov. 19 and 26, respectively, at Heinz Field.

The Panthers play Virginia Tech on a Thursday night ESPN telecast Oct. 27 at home before visiting Miami on Nov. 5 and Clemson back-to-back weeks.

Start times for all games will be announced at a later date.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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