When Pitt's full non-conference schedule was released, the general consensus was that it was fairly weak. With only one game against a BCS-conference team (Michigan), few could reasonably argue that the schedule was all that difficult. But the good news is that the Panthers have looked like a quality team along the way.
Pitt finished the non-conference portion of its schedule a near-perfect 12-1. The lone blemish came against No. 2 Michigan by only five points. By playing the Wolverines closely, the Panthers proved they should be able to hang with just about anyone in the country. It's still early, but no game on the Panthers' schedule looks utterly unwinnable.
And while the Panthers' schedule was relatively easy, it's encouraging that the team didn't have any slip-ups. I don't care how non-threatening the schedule may have been - the fact that Pitt was able to get through the bulk of it without a loss is encouraging. The team remains largely untested, but the results have been far better than last year.
In 2011, Pitt lost two non-conference games -- both to unranked teams, Long Beach State and Wagner. The Panthers also had a scare against La Salle and weren't able to dominate a number of teams including Rider, Duquesne, and Robert Morris. Last year's squad won their non-conference games by an average of under 15 points a game, but this year, Pitt has won those games by nearly 27 points per contest. As I mentioned, the non-con schedule this year has been pretty weak. But it wasn't much better in 2011 when the Panthers didn't face a single ranked team.
Pitt hasn't had many tests so far this year, but it's hard not to be encouraged by the way the Panthers have dominated opponents to this point. Things will get significantly tougher in the Big East games, but for now, this year's Pitt team looks a lot better than last year's version.