After a full year, it's finally time for the Backyard Brawl again. As usual, this game has ramifications on the conference championship.
If Pitt wins, the Panthers will be a single game away from winning the Big East outright. If the Mountaineers win, they will head into the final week of the regular season with a chance to win the conference, depending on how UConn finishes the season.
Both teams have shown the ability to make long pass plays, but this game will come down to defense and the running games. Both have top 25 defenses and the Mountaineers boast the No. 4 scoring defense in the nation. Each side also has a star running back. Noel Devine and Dion Lewis have both rushed for 1,000 yard seasons and after slow starts, both are starting to get back on track.
Another key for both sides will be to limit mistakes. WVU QB Geno Smith and Pitt QB Tino Sunseri have done a good job of keeping their teams in games, but both have struggled at times with interceptions. One of these QBs may need to go out and win their team a game, but the focus of both offenses is likely to be the rushing attacks.
The Panthers probably have a better passing game, but West Virginia may be looking to throw the ball a bit more. Pitt's secondary has struggled at times during this season and last week was an absolute disaster for the unit as they were called for numerous pass interference penalties. Pitt's secondary doesn't need to completely shut down the Mountaineers' passing game, but they can't afford to let West Virginia continue drives and get down the field. This game could come down to a field goal and every point is valuable.
Field condition will also be a factor, though, and we might see even less offense than expected.
Pitt can hardly stand to look past the Mountaineers, but should they win, a strong Cincinnati offense awaits and the conference championship is far from guaranteed. A UConn loss this weekend could make that Cincinnati game a moot point, but Pitt can't depend on that happening. Should the Mountaineers win, a beatable Rutgers team awaits. But West Virginia needs UConn to stumble in one of its two final games to win the conference.
No matter what happens after Friday, the conference may not be sewn up yet. As always, the Backyard Brawl should be exciting.