With the Backyard Brawl coming up this week, and with the Big East title potentially on the line, who's got the edge? I think it's Pitt and here are five reasons why.
1. The game is in Pittsburgh. Home games obviously aren't guaranteed wins (as the Miami game proved), but it certainly provides an edge. Pitt is 4-1 at home and 2-3 on the road. Sure, Pitt's home games have generally been against easier opponents, but there's no denying that home field can be a factor. Need more proof? The home team has won five of the past seven Backyard Brawls.
2. Pitt's two-headed rushing attack might be too much. The last time West Virginia faced a pair of good rushers from the same team was the Syracuse game. The Mountaineers lost that game and the Orange running backs, Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey, had a field day, rushing for 169 yards on only 28 carries. Pitt's Dion Lewis and Ray Graham are better than Carter and Bailey and could put up similar numbers if West Virginia's defense isn't prepared.
3. Pitt controls its own destiny. Sure go ahead, point out 2009's Cincinnati game in which Pitt also controlled its own fate. But that may be just another reason Pitt is motivated to win this game. Players know that if they take care of business they can accomplish the goal this season of winning the conference. Even if West Virginia wins out, they still need some help from one of UConn's opponents to win the BCS bid. I don't expect WVU will play any less hard because of that, but I do think Pitt will be motivated to play a little harder.
4. The 2007 Factor. Pitt isn't playing to go to a national championship game like West Virginia was back on that fateful night in 2007, but there are still players on this team that were on that one. They remember how WVU's hopes were dashed, and that game will hopefully serve as another reminder for them to go all out. The last thing the Panthers should want is for the Mountaineers to come into their house and take a Big East championship that has eluded them since Dave Wannstedt has been here.
5. Geno Smith's struggles against good defenses. West Virginia has faced four Top 25-ranked defenses this season. The Mountaineers are only 2-2 in those games and QB Geno Smith has five TDs, four INTs, and has only averaged 162 yards per game (40 yards fewer than his average). Compare those stats against those of his other six games in which he threw 14 TDs to only two INTs, and averaged about 225 yards per game. It makes sense, of course, that a player's stats would decrease against tougher competition, so his numbers aren't all that surprising. But the fact is that playing against Pitt, West Virginia is facing a Top 20 defense and that could mean trouble for Geno Smith.
Check back later this week for SBN Pittsburgh's WVU writer Aaron Hawley's five reasons why West Virginia will come out on top.