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Pitt, Rutgers will take mutual test on Saturday



Published: Tue, October 17, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The outcome may determine which team's talent matches its record.

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Pitt hasn't had a record this good in mid-October since 1982.

The Panthers might soon learn if they're as good as their 6-1 mark indicates, or if that record is the product of a softer-than-usual schedule.

Funny how this worked out, but opponent Rutgers is in the same position.

In what is turning out to be one of the Big East Conference's games of the year -- and who could have figured that -- Pitt (6-1, 2-0) meets No. 19 Rutgers (6-0, 1-0) on Saturday in a game that may determine which team's talent matches its record.

And which team may push the Big East's Top 2, No. 4 West Virginia and No. 6 Louisville, for the conference title.

Pitt hasn't beaten what would be termed a quality opponent, defeating The Citadel, Virginia, Cincinnati, Toledo, Syracuse and Central Florida. And it was beaten badly on its home field by Michigan State, which is 3-4 and winless in the Big Ten. Yet Pitt hasn't had a record this good since Dan Marino's senior-season team was 7-0 in 1982.

The 1982 team fizzled

Warning to the Panthers: That Pitt team, then ranked No. 1, would be upset at home the following weekend by Notre Dame and would lose three of its final five.

Rutgers has beaten two teams with winning records, Navy (5-2) and South Florida (5-2), with its other wins coming over Illinois, North Carolina, Howard and Ohio U.

At least one Pitt player, star linebacker H.B. Blades, knew Rutgers was going to be good. He has been wearing a Rutgers T-shirt since the end of last season, partly to motivate his teammates following last year's 37-29 loss at Rutgers.

"I think it says something," coach Dave Wannstedt said Monday. "Seeing them beat us last year bothered at least one guy. I'd like to see 85 [players] with Rutgers shirts on but, really, that's the positive -- that it meant something to him."

It also meant something to quarterback Tyler Palko, who was especially upset with a loss in which Pitt fell behind 27-0 at halftime before rallying unsuccessfully.

Palko has been one of the nation's most efficient quarterbacks, throwing 17 touchdown passes and only three interceptions in an offense that is averaging 37.6 points and is on pace to be the highest-scoring in school history.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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