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Previewing Utah's 2010 Opponents: Pittsburgh

After losing the Big East in the final minute to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh looks to bounce back stronger than before.

Utah's first non-conference opponent will be a rematch of the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, where the Utes trashed the Panthers, 35-7 in the first BCS game featuring a non-BCS team.  Although this game is not as meaningful as the previous one, it looks to be one of the biggest games for Utah in the 2010 season.

Pittsburgh finished the 2009 season 10-3,  ranked No. 15 in the AP and Coaches Poll.  They defeated North Carolina in their bowl game 19-17, using a game winning field goal in the final minute.  Pittsburgh had a good season, but nearly had great one.

Pittsburgh lost their three games by a combined score of 11.  The most painful one was the loss against Cincinnati, where they blew a 21 point lead and lost by a long drive in the final minute to the Bearcats and lost the Big East.  

This season Pitt looks to be better.  They return five starters on offense, and six on defense.  After a stellar Freshman year, RB Deon Lewis looks to make another push at the Heisman.  They also return one of the nations top wide receivers in Jonathan Baldwin.  

Pittsburgh's defense looks to be strong once again.  They return Greg Romeous and Jabaal Sheard to their defensive line which led the nation in sacks in 2009 with 3.69 per game.  They also return both safeties their secondary which ranked 49th in pass defense, giving up 213 yards per game, and also return two linebackers.

Although they return many playmakers, they still have holes to fill.  Offensively, they must replace Big East First Team QB Bill Stull.  Sophomore Tino Sunseri won their QB battle in the spring and will be the Panthers starting quarterback.  Sunseri got minimal experience in his Freshman year, but played well completing 10-17 passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns.

Pittsburgh will also be breaking in a new offensive line which returns just two starters.  The starters for the line won't be set until fall camp.  Their returning lineman are Lucas Nix and Big East First Team Tackle Jason Pinkston.  

Replacing Mick Williams on the defensive line looks to be a challenge as well, but they have talent in place to be strong once again.  On defense they also must replace both starting corners as Antwaun Reed and Ricky Gary look to fill those holes.

Despite their losses, most expect Pittsburgh to be a solid, Top 25 team.  In Mark Schlabach's preseason Top 25 and in Rivals rankings they are at No. 13.  They have the talent to be very, very good this season and could have a very potent offense.  Utah's home opener on September 2 vs. Pitt looks to be the first big time game of the 2010 season.  

Follow Michael Rueckert on Twitter @MichaelRueckert