By: Colin Dunlap

Paul Chryst must find a way to start winning some football games.

Now firmly entrenched in his third season as head coach at Pitt, and firmly entrenched as a .500 football coach, Chryst and his Panthers have a date with Duke on Saturday at Heinz Field.

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This is a Duke team that is 6-1 overall.

This is a Duke team that is 2-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

This is a Duke team that is ranked No. 24 overall.

This is a Duke program that — gasp! — the University of Pittsburgh’s football program is looking up at.

Who would have thought that would ever happen?

But it has.

That’s the reality, that’s where Pitt is; as much for what Duke has done right as for what Pitt has done wrong, but it is still a striking reality that Pitt is looking up at Duke.

And maybe way up.

Chryst, however, was the man hired in December of 2011 with high aspirations after King Phony (Todd Graham) bolted for the desert quicker than you can say “speed, speed, speed and high octane.”

Since then, Chryst has guided Pitt to a 17-17 record with some nice wins, a bowl victory against a Mid-American Conference school, but also losses against Youngstown State, Navy and Akron. We won’t even speak much of the fumblefest that happened this past week against Georgia Tech that led to 56 yielded points.

Chryst’s isn’t the best of resumes as a head coach; not the worst, either.

It is also something that, to be sincere, I expected to be better by this point in his Pitt tenure.

What it bears out, however, is a continuation in an overall middling of what Pitt football has come to be — with an exception or two — since 1982.

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Same Old Pitt. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

And with Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse and Miami remaining on the schedule, Pitt would fare very well — perhaps it’s even a bit ambitious to say — winning three of the final four.

That would put the Panthers at 7-5.

Is that what Paul Chryst was supposed to do in his first three seasons?

Go 6-7, followed by a 7-6 mark and then a (bit of a reach even) 7-5 plus whatever the bowl season merits?

I don’t know how that sits with you, but I expected a touch more by now, I expected Tyler Boyd to be flashing brilliance all over the football field this season, the offensive line to be manhandling people on each snap and James Conner to be tilling through defenses and it equate to more wins.

Whatever the case, whatever the cause, it all traces back to this: Paul Chryst must find a way to start winning more football games or — sadly but justly — his program will continue to be saddled with the Same Old Pitt moniker.

It hasn’t helped Chryst’s cause that starting quarterback Chad Voytik, in my estimation, would be better suited playing in Conference USA, the Mid-American or American Athletic Conferences than taking snaps in the ACC.

To be blunt, from this vantage it appears more than a fair inquiry as to if Voytik — a redshirt sophomore — will ever possess the overall talent or throw-making abilities it takes to command a game from week-to-week in one of this country’s power conferences.

Voytik might grow into that; my guess is that he is what he is and he won’t.

This invariably falls back to Chryst to hit the recruiting trail hard and find a quarterback who can win in the ACC. Chryst has a commitment from Alex Hornibrook, a quarterback from the eastern portion of Pennsylvania, and must hope he — or another recruit — can come in and eventually succeed.

Everything traces back to the starting point: Paul Chryst must find a way to start winning more football games or Same Old Pitt remains Same Old Pitt.

It is far too early to begin talking about the job status of Paul Chryst; way too early for such silly dialogue. He’s the coach and he’s solidified his status as such for at least another two seasons or so.

That said though, it isn’t too soon to wonder if Chryst is a man who has the program headed in the right direction or one who has it mired in a continual general stagnation without any indication he will extract it from such slumber.

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Right now, to many, they are Same Old Pitt — and that’s just the plain truth.