PITTSBURGH (AP) -Coaches stress the importance of never looking past the next game, so much so that their reminders become tedious. Too much can happen when a player looks into the future, they warn.
This is one week when Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt probably doesn't mind if his No. 23 Panthers (8-3, 4-2 Big East) weigh what would happen if they win their regular-season finale at Connecticut (7-4, 3-3) on Saturday.
The payoff for winning is far greater than the consolation prize for losing.
If the Panthers follow up their last-minute victory over rival West Virginia (7-4, 4-2) by winning at UConn for the first time in three tries, it appears likely they would take their first nine-win regular season since 1982 into the Sun Bowl.
Big East champion Cincinnati already owns the league's automatic BCS bowl bid. With the Gator Bowl locked in on a Big 12 team, the Sun Bowl is second in importance for the conference this season, and Pitt would be matched against a Pac-10 team.
f we take care of business Saturday at UConn,'' tight end Nate Byham said.
A loss could drop Pitt all the way to the PapaJohns.com Bowl, which wouldn't be much of a reward for an eight-win team. The Panthers probably would meet a Sun Belt Conference team in a matchup that would generate tepid interest among even the most loyal of Pitt rooters.
If West Virginia beats South Florida (7-4, 2-4) on Saturday and Pitt loses, the Mountaineers would finish ahead of Pitt in the Big East standings and might get the Sun Bowl bid. Rutgers (6-5, 4-2) probably would be picked over Pitt for the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, as long as it beats Louisville (5-6, 1-5) on Thursday, because the Scarlet Knights would sell more tickets.
Pitt didn't bring many fans to the Charlotte bowl when Larry Fitzgerald was its star in 2003, a factor that could weigh against the Panthers.
No doubt the Panthers would prefer to spend New Year's Eve in the Sun.
``A lot of things can still happen, and a lot needs to happen,'' linebacker Scott McKillop said. ``We only can control what's ahead, and that's UConn. We just have to go up there and take care of business and beat UConn. We really can't control what everybody wants to do with the bowls.''
winning 13-9.
Since that West Virginia game, Pitt has won five of six on the road, losing only at No. 13 Cincinnati 28-21 two weeks ago.
``Coach Wannstedt has stressed to the seniors that our class can be responsible for taking Pitt back to where we want it to be,'' McKillop said. ``We want to finish strong and win nine regular-season games.''
UConn won at Pittsburgh 34-13 last season, but that was 20 games ago. Since then the teams have nearly identical records, UConn at 12-8 and Pitt at 11-8.
``No. 1, these guys beat us the last couple of years,'' Wannstedt said. ``No. 2, which might be more important, our guys would like to end up with nine wins. That hasn't been done around here in over a quarter-century. That's kind of our focus.''

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