OK, let's end some of this speculaiton right now:
There is far more at stake in this game against Cincinnati for Pitt than people are willing to admit.
Many millions more, to be accurate.
That's because Pitt's bowl situation - and mostly due to the fact that the Panthers have a well-deserved reputation of being very poor at traveling to bowl games - is very simple:
Either win Saturday and get to the BCS Bowl or have fun in Birmingham, or perhaps Toronto (where the Panthers will no doubt lose to Temple, sorry had to, ha ha), for the holidays.
Here is what the Big East Bowl lineup is shaping up to look like:
If Cincy wins....
Cincinnati to the BCS
West Virginia to the Gator
Rutgers to Charlotte
Pitt to Birmingham (or Toronto)
Toronto and St. Petersburg left to fight over UConn and USF.
If Pitt wins......
Pitt to BCS
Cincy to Gator (though WVU could still be here)
WVU or Cincy to Charlotte
Rutgers, USF and UConn left to play musical chairs with the three lower bowls (all three went to one of those games last year so we can assume they won't go back to same one this year)
It really is that simple for Pitt - the Gator Bowl is not going to select Pitt regardless of what happens (an 8-4 WVU team, if the Mountaineers were to lose to Rutgers, is more attractive than a 9-3 Pitt team) and the Tire Bowl seems to be lukewarm at best to the idea of having a disappointed Pitt fan base return 5,000 tickets or whatever again so has its eyes on Rutgers.
Again, the questions I get the most are why does everyone want WVU and why is Rutgers ahead of Pitt?
The answer is simple - WVU brings fans and lots of them and so does Rutgers while Pitt fans make excuses as to why they can't go to bowl games.
And while all of that is fine - it is your money, spend it as you wish -- but just don't complain every year when teams Pitt beat and who finished behind Pitt in the standings get better bowl bids because it will continue to be the reality until the Panthers start selling tickets and traveling better.