Much thanks to SBN's Cardiac Hill, the Pitt Panther blog that provided today's Rivalry Piece. Jim and Anson co-authored a piece that lays out some background on this rivalry. OTE appreciates this look at the rivalry very much. I'm just going to keep writing rivalry until somewhere, a Penn State fan spontaneously combusts. Enjoy Rivalry Friday on OTE! - graham
Living in Pennsylvania, you don't have to look incredibly far to see Penn State's vast impact on the region and throughout the state. Penn State is a nationally renowned university that contributes a lot to the state in many different areas and the school is a real sense of pride for many Pennsylvanians. The rest of us, though, grew up as fans of Pitt except for the miserable souls that somehow ended up at West Virginia (that's an entirely different article).
As Pitt fans, we don't like Penn State. And to be honest, the vast majority of us find the whole institution rather annoying. There it is - I said it.
Some people will tell you the Pitt-Penn State rivalry is dead and that it doesn't matter to most Penn State fans if the game is ever played again. There are many different reasons the game hasn't been played since 2000 and won't be resumed 2016. Pitt fans will insist that it's all Joe Pa's fault while Penn State fans will argue the need to play other rivalry games such as Temple and Syracuse for their fanbases in those areas ... no really, that along with wanting a 2-1 situation at home game tradeoff is the excuse most often recited.
It's true that as a whole, younger fans don't particularly care about the game quite as much as their elders. Younger Pitt fans have grown up with West Virginia as the primary rival over the past decade and Penn State fans have
Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State ... eh, forget it. Regardless, it's still a rivalry game that a large contingent of fans on both sides cares about.
Beyond the rivalry when it comes to actual football games, there's also a great deal of competition between the two schools. While there haven't been Pitt-Penn State football games for more than a decade, the two sides have battled it out for recruits. The schools go up against each other in other sports, and academically, there are bragging rights to consider as well since both are in the nation's top 20 public schools, according to the U.S. News and World Report rankings. With all of those factors as well as the proximity between the two schools, it's rather silly to suggest that a rivalry on some level doesn't exist.
The schools are very much alike, but different in so many ways. You have the giant state university in the middle of nowhere with the football program led by a legendary coach. Penn State is massive and reaches throughout the state with their four million branch campuses seemingly in every neighborhood (#NoChildLeftBehindYa'll!). On the other hand, you have a school tucked away in the big city with a top basketball program, but wildly inconsistent football team. Despite those differences, though, both are large universities that are respected academically and represent a large portion of Pennsylvania.
I can't speak for all Pitt fans here, but many believe that the arrogance of Penn State supporters is what really gets us going. Part of that is, of course, heightened by their recent ... troubles, shall we say. If ever there were a time to dial it down a bit, presumably you'd think it'd be now. But instead, Penn State fans are generally as loud as ever with no true sense of the mockery being made of them on a national scale.
And when the announcement was made that Pitt and Penn State would be renewing their football series, instead of being happy about playing a long-time foe, you could hear the collective groan from many of their fans about not wanting to play the game. At a time when Penn State should be ecstatic to renew such a storied rivalry to get their minds off of Sandusky-gate, they're instead whining about not being able to play someone else like Berwick High School or something.
Then there's always the misguided stance that the two teams shouldn't play since it's a one-sided rivalry. After all, the Nittany Lions have won seven of the past ten and since 1966 are a whopping 23-7 in the series.
Well, yes - all of that's true and to suggest they've not dominated the series lately would be erroneous. But over the past three meetings when Pitt's program was in utter shambles, the Panthers held their own. They lost one game to a No. 2 ranked Penn State team, missing a potential game-tying field goal at the end. They lost another by a touchdown on the road against a top ten Nittany Lions' squad. And Pitt broke through and won the final meeting, 12-0. Plus, just as Pitt's shocking 13-9 upset over No. 1 ranked West Virginia proved back in 2007, it's that you never know what can happen in rivalry games. Despite a gaggle of coaching changes over the past two years and a couple of down seasons, Pitt's program is in better shape than the last time the two programs met. To pretend as if the games couldn't be competitive reeks of true ignorance.
The rivalry is always in good fun and it splits families and friends apart. Are we going to poison some trees in Happy Valley? Not likely. But do we root for them to lose every game? Sure we do - the only difference is that we admit it.
The Pitt-Penn State rivalry has suffered since the game hasn't been played for so many years. Still, as soon as the two teams suit up in a few years that will all be forgotten. The two teams have played some very memorable games and despite the long hiatus, it will be a heated game from the opening whistle.
See you in 1,154 days, Nittany Lions ... but who's counting?