October 30, 2006

Palko chief among Pitt improvements

There are a number of differences between the 2005 Pitt Panthers and the team's 2006 incarnation. At this point in the season, the most significant difference is the record: after eight games, the 2005 version featured a 4-4 record; the current Panthers sit at 6-2. But while the four-game swing is the most noticeable variation between last year and this year, there are a litany of differences that have led to the improved record.

Many will point immediately to the Panthers' schedule and Pitt's road itinerary in particular. Instead of traveling to face the likes of Rutgers and Nebraska, the Panthers have taken road trips to Cincinnati, Syracuse, and Central Florida, none of which can be considered juggernauts. Those same critics point at a home schedule that hasn't, to this point, provoked much fear, outside of Michigan State and Rutgers, who represent the Panthers' two losses.

More specifically, though, the Pitt football team has exhibited change in a number of key areas: along the defensive front, they have created more pressure than last season; on the offensive line, the Panthers are protecting better; and the team as a whole has a better mindset than it had a year ago. Certainly not least amongst the characteristics of the 2006 Panthers has been the play of quarterback Tyler Palko.

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