The Backyard Brawl, the annual showdown between the Pittsburgh Panthers and the West Virginia Mountaineers, holds a little more importance than just bragging rights for the winner, according to ESPN. This season, the game that is the centerpiece of any season for both football squads — they are bitter arch-rivals — regardless of their records, could decide the Big East Championship and who will represent the conference in this year’s Nokia Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
Although West Virginia University (WVU) entered the Backyard Brawl with a better overall record than Pittsburgh, they have one more conference loss than the Panthers, which places them in second place in the Big East Conference standings. If West Virginia proves victorious, they have to rely on the Connecticut Huskies to lose one of their remaining games in order to win the Big East championship. UConn stands in third place in the conference, even though they have the same record as Pittsburgh, but because they defeated the Mountaineers earlier in the season, could potentially win the Big East championship — if Pittsburgh loses, WVU wins, and UConn wins their last two contests. UConn controls the tie-breaker because they also beat the Panthers this season.
But the Panthers hold their destiny, the Big East Championship, and the automatic trip to the Sugar Bowl that the championship entails in their own hands. If Pittsburgh wins the Backyard Brawl, they win the Big East Conference championship.
And if one doesn’t think that Connecticut isn’t aware of the stakes of the West Virginia-Pittsburgh match-up, “The UConn Blog” puts it in perspective in its title, “The Backyard Brawl: The most important non-Uconn game you’ll watch this year.” UConn won its one and only Big East title back in 2007, and they’re depending on West Virginia, like they did that year, to get there. Only this time they’re hoping the Mountaineers win the game (West Virginia lost in 2007 and UConn tied WVU at the top of the Big East Conference standings).
WVU entered the football game as one of the stingiest defenses in the nation. They ranked fourth in the nation in the number of points allowed by their opponent (12.9). But, as for total offense, the two teams couldn’t be more evenly matched. West Virginia, according to NCAA.org, was ranked #74; Pittsburgh was right behind them at #75. The difference? Exactly 1.5 yards per game.
The two football squads are comparable on defense as well. West Virginia’s overall defensive ranking was #4 going into the game. The Panthers were #12.
Add in the tradition of rivalry, the grudges, the history, the potential conference championship and Sugar Bowl appearance, and you have the makings of an intense edition of the Backyard Brawl, a game that has seen 102 meetings between the two football powerhouses.
Brian Bennett, “West Virginia-Pitt pre-game ponderables,” ESPN.go.com
Andrew Porter, “The Backyard Brawl: The most important non-Uconn game you’ll watch this year,” TheUConnBlog.com
“FBS Football Statistics,” NCAA.org