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Cincinnati's victory keeps West Virginia's BCS hopes alive. Louisville is 5-2 in the Big East, and WVU and Cincinnati are both now 4-2. To go to a BCS bowl, the Mountaineers need to beat South Florida in their final game, and they also need Cincinnati to keep winning, forcing a three-way tie with Louisville atop the Big East. If that were to happen, WVU would likely be BCS-bound, because the three teams' records against each other are all 1-1, and West Virginia ranks the highest in the BCS standings. If the Mountaineers lose their final game, they're out, and if Cincinnati had lost Saturday or if Cincinnati loses its final game against UConn, the Mountaineers are also out, because they lost to Louisville head-to-head.
With its one-point win over Pitt Friday night, West Virginia stayed alive in the Big East BCS chase. Here's what WVU needs to earn a BCS berth. Special thanks goes to the Charleston Daily Mail, which helped me in a couple spots below when I got confused. It's that kind of BCS chase.
WVU is currently 4-2 in the Big East. Louisville beat South Florida on Friday and moved to 5-2 in the process. That's trouble for the Mountaineers, since Louisville beat West Virginia on November 5. But WVU's hopes are still alive thanks to Cincinnati. If the Bearcats, who are 3-2, win their final two regular-season games against Syracuse and Connecticut, and WVU wins its final game against South Florida, then Louisville, WVU and Cincinnati would all finish conference play with the same record. The three teams are all 1-1 against one another, so the team that is highest in the BCS standings would head to a BCS bowl. That's likely to be WVU. If Cincinnati fails to win out, or if WVU fails to win its final game, the Mountaineers won't be playing in a BCS bowl, and probably would head to the Belk Bowl.
Rutgers is 4-2 in the Big East and has one game remaining, against UConn. If Rutgers wins that game and WVU and Cincinnati both win out, the BCS berth would go to either WVU or Louisville, depending on who is higher in the BCS standings. Again, that would likely be WVU.
We'll have more on this once Cincinnati and Rutgers play on Saturday. West Virginia fans will want to root hard for the Bearcats.
Now that the 2011 Backyard Brawl is over, the rivalry between Pitt and West Virginia appears to be on hold. To judge from some of the ugly play this year, that may not be such a terrible thing, as Dejan Kovacevic jokingly (I think?) pointed out. The entire first half seemed jerry-rigged to annoy WVU fans, who endured penalties, repeated third-down failures, poor run defense, and downright awful punting (from Michael Molinari). Pitt jumped out to a 14-0 lead thanks to rushing touchdowns by Zach Brown and Isaac Bennett. WVU cut the lead in half with a Stedman Bailey touchdown reception in the second quarter, but the Mountaineers headed into the locker room with a 17-7 deficit.
In the second half, though, WVU's defense and run game suddenly came alive. After another Pitt field goal, Dustin Garrison and Shawne Alston led a run-heavy drive that resulted in an eight-yard rushing touchdown by Alston. And then came the sacks - the Mountaineers had two on Pitt's next drive, one on the drive after that, and then they kept coming. In the end, they had 10, with nearly all the damage coming late in the game. Julian Miller had four of those, tying a school record. Finally, Alston punched in a one-yard touchdown run to put the Mountaineers up 21-20, and they would keep that lead.
The Mountaineers still have a sliver of hope of going to a BCS bowl, but they'll need some help from Cincinnati to get there.
The 104th Backyard Brawl, like so many others, was a close one. West Virginia came out on top, winning a close game 21-20 in Morgantown.
For much of the game, Pitt appeared to be in charge. They led 14-0 and had a 20-7 lead in the third quarter. But West Virginia was able to score two second-half touchdowns on their way to victory. For Pitt, it was much of the same story this season – a second half collapse and virtually no offense late in the game.
The Mountaineers all but tried to hand the game to Pitt, turning the ball over three times (two on botched punt returns) and for a while, the Panthers seemed to oblige. But despite having the ball for more than 36 minutes to West Virginia’s nearly 24, Pitt found it hard scoring points in the second half, getting only a field goal.
If there’s one thing that did Pitt in, it may have been the fact they had to settle for two field goals deep in West Virginia territory. Pitt was twice inside the Mountaineers’ 15-yard line, but ended up taking the three points. In hindsight, we can see that Pitt should have gone for a first down on at least one of those occasions, but in the flow of the game, it’s hard to fault Todd Graham for taking those points. At the time, each one extended Pitt’s lead by more than a touchdown and with the way the defense was playing, it made all the sense in the world to try to pad the margin.
Another problem for the Panthers was the fact that they were heavily penalized (nine penalties for 60 yards). Todd Graham has preached that the team will be a disciplined one off the field, but on it, the team has had far too many mental miscues.
And if you need further evidence of just how bad Pitt’s offense was for the most part, look no further than the fact that they had to punt an incredulous ten times.
Pitt now will shift their attention from a potential BCS berth to simply trying to make a bowl game. The Panthers are sitting at 5-6 and must win against Syracuse next week to even become bowl eligible. The Mountaineers, on the other hand, still have a shot at the BCS game if a few things break their way.
For more on Pitt, check out SB Nation blog Cardiac Hill.
For more on West Virginia, stop by SB Nation’s Smoking Musket.
The Pittsburgh Panthers and the West Virginia Mountaineers have not had the seasons that either of them had envisioned, but whichever team wins the rivalry game this weekend will probably come out of it with a pretty good feeling about how their season went. For more on the matchup, we turn to our Pitt blog, Cardiac Hill.
So how's this one going to turn out? Is it going to be a shootout as some are projecting? I don't think so, to be honest. That's likely not the popular opinion, and both teams have shown an ability to score points this year. Further, West Virginia has given up points in bunches this year, giving up more than 30 points to five different teams this year - Maryland, LSU, Syracuse, Rutgers, and Louisville. But for some reason, I'm thinking this is a fairly low score - maybe a total of about 45 points.
Here is all of the info on the game and where you can find it.
Game date, time: 7 pm ET, Friday, Nov 25th
Location: Mountaineer Field, Morgantown, WV
TV channel: ESPN/ESPN3
|7:00 PM||West Virginia||-8-109||-6½-113||-6½-110||-7+100|
Series history: Pitt leads, 55-34
For further reading, news, discussion and more, visit West Virginia blog The Smoking Musket and Pitt blog Cardiac Hill. Here’s the complete Week 10 college football TV schedule, and stay tuned to SB Nation’s college football news hub for more.
With 103 Backyard Brawls in the books, it’s difficult to pick the most memorable one. But one that is up for consideration, of course, would be the 2007 edition when a heavily-favored West Virginia squad fell to Pitt, 13-9.
Former Pitt linebacker Scott McKillop played in that game and had some pretty interesting things to say, speaking to Joe Starkey of the Trib-Review:
“I like to reiterate the fact that we basically ruined their whole entire college career,” he says. “Nothing brings me more pleasure than when I say, ‘13-9.’ The face they give me is just priceless.”
He was just warming up.
“You can’t say it when you play, because you give them bulletin-board material, but I (expletive) hate West Virginia. I can’t stand the state. I just don’t like that university. I guess now you can print me saying it.”
McKillop wasn’t done there. He mentioned that Pitt was able to win the game in part because the Mountaineers failed to make an adjustment on offense. The Panthers defense kept doing the same thing over and over. And over:
Pitt played a risky blitzing scheme with a single high safety. West Virginia never adjusted.
“We ran one and only one defense the whole second half,” McKillop says. "I don’t know if that fact is out there. I guess I’ll spill the beans. We had one adjustment based on where the running back lined up. I was thinking, ‘Are they ever going to pick up on this?’
For an offensive-minded team to not be able to pick up on that is pretty astounding. Part of it obviously had to do with Pat White being knocked out of the game with an injury, but the Mountaineers still had plenty of talent on offense. The Panthers essentially said ’Here’s what we’re doing’ on every play and West Virginia was unable to score enough points on offense.
Regardless of what side of the fence you’re on when it comes to the Brawl, there’s no question that 2007 won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Pitt’s most talented offensive lineman, Lucas Nix, has been trying to get back onto the field for weeks after his injury. After missing the past few weeks, head coach Todd Graham, thinks this could be the week he returns:
“We anticipate that Lucas will play,” Graham said. “I don’t want to tell you he is definitely going to and then he doesn’t, and you guys (reporters) think I’m not telling you the truth.”
A ligament that provides support for his left kneecap was stretched, and Nix has been careful not to re-injure it during his rehabilitation.
“Obviously, he has the best chance to play this week; he has had the most time to get ready,” said Graham, noting that Pitt didn’t play last week. “I anticipate and expect him to be playing.”
The thing with Nix is that he obviously has an NFL career to consider. Nix may be healthy enough to play and go out there in a limited fashion, but he needs to be careful not to further injure himself. But playing in the Backyard Brawl and with Pitt’s slim BCS hopes on the line, this could be the week we finally see Nix suit back up.
Who: Pitt Panthers
When: 7:00 PM, Friday November 25
Where: Milan Puskar Stadium
What: The Backyard Brawl
What to Watch For When The ‘Eers Have the Ball: The Mountaineers have to run the football effectively. I know it seems funny to say in a year where Geno Smith and his receivers have been setting aerial records left and right, but the ‘Eers need to be able to pound the rock. The ability of WVU to get production out of Dustin Garrison and Shawne Alston directly correlates to success for the 'Eers. At the very least, it gets the blitz off of Geno's back. If WVU can play balanced football and pick up decent yardage on first and second down, then the Mountaineer attack should hum. If Geno and company stare down too many third and longs, it could put the defense back out on the field and the game into the grasp of the Panthers.
What to Watch For When The Panthers Have the Ball: How Pitt deals with the loss of running back Ray Graham. Graham scared Mountaineer fans who feared their team's ability to stop the run. Now Pitt victory will be wholly on the shoulders of QB Tino Sunseri. The Mountaineer defensive front has been much improved in the last few contests and getting pressure on the Panther QB is a must. If Sunseri plays smart, Pitt could control the clock and the football game. Getting to him, and getting off the field are going to be crucial for the WVU defense.
The Mountaineers Will Roll If: They can do what they've done when they've won, namely good balanced offense and competent defense. It's not asking too much and, with Graham sidelined, should happen.
The Mountaineers Will Have Trouble If: Sunseri has time in the pocket for Pitt's receivers to get open. The WVU secondary has been having trouble covering for more than a few seconds at a time. The defensive line has been more successful of late, and it shows on the backend. If the Mountaineers give up the big play, it's going to be a long day for WVU.
Thing That Makes My Blood Boil: If the Mountaineers lose. It's the Backyard Brawl. It may not be the most glamorous rivalry in sports, but it's my rivalry and losing is unacceptable. After the debacle that was the 13-9 game, if Pitt never wins another thing, I'll be happy. The idea of the game taking a hiatus for a few years means that winning this one is more important than ever.
The Mountaineers and Panthers square off in the 104th playing of the Backyard Brawl.