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Pitt Vs. West Virginia: The Backyard Brawl Looms Large

The Mountaineers and Panthers square off in the 104th playing of the Backyard Brawl.

Thanksgiving week means a lot of things to a lot of people in a lot of places.  Around these parts, it's taken on a whole new meaning over the last few seasons: the Backyard Brawl. Played on Thanksgiving weekend for five of the last seven seasons, the Backyard Brawl is college football at its finest.  A bitter local rivalry, with bigger implications almost always on the line.  Folks in Morgantown hate Pitt, and people at Pitt hate the Mountaineers.  The two square off at 7pm on Friday in Morgantown.  Here's what's on the line:

A few seasons' worth of bragging rights.  This year's Brawl takes on even larger implications as the barrage of conference re-alignment has all but assured that this game won't happen again for a few years. The Big East has sued West Virginia in hopes to keep them around for two more seasons, but the Big 12 expects the Mountaineers to be there next season.  The last time West Virginia and Pittsburgh didn't square off on the football field, it was because World War II was raging all around the world.  The Backyard Brawl has been played in every year since 1943 and this will be the game's 104th playing.  Obviously, both schools want to hold bragging rights over the hiatus.  Everyone involved firmly believes the game will be played again, but no one can say when.  

For the Mountaineers, a victory is needed to keep BCS hopes alive.  The Mountaineers are on the outside looking in when it comes to the Big East's BCS bowl bid, but all hope is not yet lost.  The 'Eers must win the Backyard Brawl and beat South Florida on the road in the last game of the season to keep their dim BCS hopes alive.  If WVU can accomplish those, one loss by Louisville or two wins by Cincinnati should send the Mountaineers to the BCS courtesy of a tie-breaker you need an advanced degree to really understand.  As far as Mountaineer fans are concerned, it may not be much, but it's something.

For the Panthers, a victory is needed to become bowl-eligible. Todd Graham has had a disappointing injury plagued season in his first year at the helm of the Panthers, and he's still one win away from taking the team to a bowl game. Pitt will have another shot in the last game of the season, at home against Syracuse, but a win against the Mountaineers would taste sweeter to Panther faithful.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.