Hide your couches people, one of the great college football rivalries lost to conference re-alignment is back for Week 1.
The Backyard Brawl will commence on Thursday night at
Heinz Field Acrisure Stadium as the West Virginia Mountaineers meet the Pitt Panthers for the first time in 11 years. This battle of Appalachia is the 14th oldest rivalry in all of college football, and there’s still no love lost between these two border enemies. We’ll take a look at the history of this series.
History of Pitt vs. West Virginia
Total games played: 104
Record: Pitt is 61-40-3
Last game: West Virginia won 21-20 in Morgantown, WV
Separated by just 75 miles on I-79, the Backyard Brawl spans all the way back to 19th century. The first meeting took place on October 26, 1895, in Wheeling, WV, when West Virginia defeated Pitt (then known as Western University of Pennsylvania) 8-0. The Mountaineers won five of the first six meetings before the Panthers took complete control of the rivalry, winning 33 of the next 38 matchups.
West Virginia started to fight back in the 60’s and early 70’s before the Pitt re-took control of the series as a national power under famed head coach Johnny Majors. Both teams joined the Big East in 1991 and WVU mostly had the upper hand for the next two decades, winning 14 of the next 21 matchups.
With the destruction of Big East football in the early 2010’s, the rivalry was put on hiatus with Pitt joining the ACC and WVU finding a life raft in the Big 12. Fortunately, both schools were able to clear their schedules and agree to resurrect the rivalry as part of a four-game series beginning this year. The 2023 edition will come from Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, WV, and they will alternate sites again for the next two years.
Biggest game in series history: 2007
West Virginia fans, look away.
The most consequential game in Backyard Brawl history came at the end of the wacky 2007 season when a 4-7 Pitt upset No. 2 West Virginia 13-9, ruining the Mountaineers’ hopes of earning a berth in the BCS Championship Game. The normally explosive WVU offense led by Pat White, Steve Slaton, and Noel Divine was completely stifled as White injured his thumb in the first half and head coach Rich Rodriguez insisted on running the ball despite Pitt playing Cover 0 coverage for most of the game.
Split Zone Duo co-host and Pittsburgh native Alex Kirshner did an excellent retrospective on the game and Mountaineers fullback summed it up best by saying “AND THEN YOU GET TO THE FU***** LAST GAME OF THE SEASON AND BLOW IT...AGAINST THE SH******* FU***** TEAM IN THE FU***** WORLD.”
Most important player in series history: Dan Marino
There have been several legendary players who have participated in this rivalry on both sides, from the likes of Mike Ditka and Tony Dorsett for Pitt to the likes of Marc Bulger and the aforementioned White for WVU. As far as most important player, we’ll go with Dan Marino.
The future Hall of Famer with the Miami Dolphins led his hometown Pittsburgh to four victories over their rivals to the south, closing the era of the Panthers being a national title contender.
Odds for 2022 via DraftKings Sportsbook
Spread: Pitt -7.5
Total: Over/Under 51.5
Moneyline: Pitt -300, WVU +250
Pitt enters this season-opener as the reigning champions of the ACC. Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback is still in town, but with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and head coach Pat Narduzzi has tabbed USC transfer Kedon Slovis to lead the Panthers into the Brawl.
Meanwhile, West Virginia is entering Year 4 of the Neal Brown era in Morgantown, WV, and while the results have been ok, there’s a desire among Mountaineer fans to achieve more than six wins this season. Like Pitt, WVU will also have a former Trojan making the start on Thursday with USC/Georgia transfer JT Daniels suiting up for the ‘Neers.