I must have conveniently blocked out the ‘88 game against Pitt from my memory, whereas I distinctly remember the debacle at home against Indiana the year before (which contributed to Earle getting fired).
I got curious about how ‘88 Pitt fared the remainder of their season, figuring they must have been pretty good. Well, they only went 6-5 with no bowl game. To be fair, though, Pitt was then independent and played a tough schedule that included Notre Dame, who won the national championship that season, and WVU, which lost to ND in the “national championship” bowl game.
Actually, In the final A.P. rankings of the ‘88 season, four out of the top five teams were independent: #1. Notre Dame, #2 Miami, #3 FSU, and #5 WVU. Only #4 Michigan was in a conference and they had no chance at winning the national championship, with two losses and a tie (to be fair, ‘88 Michigan played a brutal schedule, themselves).