This isn’t a piece about Pitt Stadium.
The grand old gal that stood atop Cardiac Hill has nothing to do with the success or failure of Pitt football right now.
This isn’t a piece about the Pitt Script, either.
That insignia — however defining and distinguishable — has zip to do with where the Pitt football program is right now.
This is a piece about reality.
Pitt is Pitt — or are we supposed to call them ‘Pittsburgh’ — because they haven’t been able to find good enough players in recent years. And, more to the point, a good enough quarterback.
As Pitt (3-3, 1-1 ACC) gets ready to host Virginia Tech (4-2, 1-1) on Thursday night inside Heinz Field, for me it boils down to the play of Pitt redshirt sophomore Chad Voytik.
He’s gone 83 for 143 in six games this season, throwing eight touchdowns but tossing it to the other team five times.
Voytik is also riding a three-game losing streak, falling in succession to Iowa, Akron and Virginia.
Simply, he hasn’t been good enough.
Or, maybe, this is just how good he is.
That’s probably more like it — this is just how good he is. A nice college quarterback who will never wow you, will make a surprising throw from time-to-time, but leaves you wanting a whole lot more when you see what the true big-time programs in college football have under center.
Just like Tino Sunseri.
Just like Bill Stull.
Just like Rod Rutherford.
Just like David Priestley.
Just like John Turman.
Just like John Ryan.
Just like Sean Fitzgerald.
Just like Matt Lytle.
Just like …. the list goes on and on.
Voytik is what he is. No more, no less — just like those other guys mentioned above.
To me, that’s the undeniable reality of college football that falls directly in line with success — you must go out and recruit a top notch quarterback. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dropback passer or dynamic dual-threat guy, until Pitt is able to lure one of those players to Oakland, the Panthers will continue to be — in my estimation at least — a tinge above average.
Since 1989, Pitt has had fewer than four losses in a season just once.
Also, it’s no coincidence that the last time Pitt had back-to-back season where they posted double-digit wins — and had a true chance to be talked about among the nation’s elite — was in 1980 and 1981 when Dan Marino was the quarterback.
Dan Marino doesn’t come along every day, granted.
I get that, I understand that.
But talk about playing stingy defense or a great ground game all you like. Be sure to yell and scream about great offensive line play or bringing in some maverick play-caller to lead the offense.
Talk about some disadvantage in recruiting because the Panthers don’t play their games on-campus or the way the word ‘PITT’ is written when the logo is emblazoned on uniforms and merchandise.
All that stuff, to me at least, is on the periphery to the main factor that has decided just how good Pitt has been in the recent past, and just how good they will be in the future — quarterback play.
No one knows what Voytik will do against Virginia Tech on that national stage on Thursday night.
The hunch however, is this: A great performance by him could start to push Pitt and Paul Chryst out of this rut that the program has found itself in. A regular performance by Voytik however, will keep the program, well, regular.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at email@example.com. Check out his bio here.