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.