College Sports

Pitt v Penn State- Rivalry Renewed – Fact or Fiction

 

The countdown has begun with only 2 weekends standing between fans and one of the best rivalries in all of college football.  After a long hiatus Pitt v Penn State is back. Even though the official announcement of the series was made a long time ago, it’s finally starting to feel real. The anticipation, the trash talk, the fan-base loathing; It’s all here and it is glorious. I’m going to break down, and or, debunk many of the popular talking points that are being discussed/argued leading up to this game.

This match-up will be decided by the glut of RB talent on both sides of the ball-FICTION
QB play will determine the winner of this game. While it’s easy to get swept up discussing which backfield is going to have a greater impact;  it’s really a moot point. Both sides have very capable running backs that essentially will cancel each other out. At the end of the day it boils down the QB’s; they are the ones that will be remembered. Probably not for their stat line, but for a back-breaking interception or fumble.

Nate Peterman is not flashy but is a capable QB with the edge in experience. Last season he finished second in the ACC in completion percentage (61.5) and third in touchdown passes (20). If he plays within himself and doesn’t make any major mistakes Pitts should have a major advantage over PSU. The biggest hurdle for Peterman is the loss of Tyler Boyd. Boyd could make any college QB look competent and his presence in the passing game will be missed.  How Peterman adjusts to his new set of wide-outs will  be a telling barometer to how successful they will be. If he gets settled in and doesn’t have any egregious turnovers Pitt probably dominates this game.

The PSU QB situation is virtual unknown.  They have named a starter for week one,  dual threat Trace McSorley.  Kent State should allow him to get his feet wet but, the Pitt game will be his first true test of the season. While Pitt isn’t a top 1o power they still are not Kent State.  The Penn State faithful believe this kid is a born winner and his running ability brings a need “X” factor to the PSU offense. Just as will Pitt, if McSorley can’t get on track it won’t  matter how many yards Saquon Barkley rushes for if this young QB gets rattled. I could see some of PSU’s bigger plays coming directly off the likely play action type calls Joe Moorhead will dial-up to give this kid some opportunities to make impact plays.

Pitt’s kicking game will need to step up if they have any hope of winning- FACT

I can’t find many Pitt fans that have confidence in senior kicker Chris Blewitt. His line from last season was not spectacular; 15-of-23 in field-goal attempts and his track record isn’t considered great. A critical missed field goal early in the game could set the tone for the entire contest.  Pitt cannot afford to leave any points off the board. The kicking game is not discussed nearly as much as it should in regards to this match-up. Even though Pitt opened as a +9 favorite, special teams will play an underrated role and might make that spread a moot point.

The record breaking season ticket sales for this season was aided heavily by Penn State fans buying up ticket plans simply for this game-FACT

Who are we kidding? Even the most hard-core of Pitt fans will admit this.  PSU fans have bought a lot of tickets for this game. Personally I know a bunch of Penn Staters that have bought multiple season ticket plans just for this game.  If Penn State fans want to fill the coffers of the Pitt athletic Department more power to them.

To me, all these plans being bought up shows me that this game means something to Penn State. Penn State fans fancy themselves blood rivals with Ohio State and Michigan and this Pitt game is a novelty, but let’s be realistic here, nobody in the mitten or C-bus really give’s a flying you know what over the PSU game.  The Big-Ten for years also tried to fabricate a fake rivalry between PSU and MSU, which was embarrassing to the league and for the teams involved.

By Penn State fans attempting to take over stadium it shows me how important this game is to them. It’s almost a subconscious admittance by Penn State fans that Pitt is their true and only rival. Actions do speak louder than words.

As a follow up- The stadium will be close to 2/3 PSU fans according any Penn State fan you ask-FICTION

This is just absurd. Yes, there will be a lot of PSU fans, but 2/3 is a little extreme. I believe it will be more of  a 50/50 split. I just can’t see that many Pitt fans selling their tickets, to the biggest Pitt game in years, to rival fans. If you are hard-core enough of a Pitt fan to stay a STH all those awful years why would you turn around and sell your ticket to the PSU game? The Penn State narrative that this will be a home game for them is drastically exaggerated. Once again if the Pitt game means nothing to the PSU fan-base as they would have you believe, why would so many openly brag about supposedly taking over Pitt’s stadium?

This game means “SO” much more to Pitt than Penn State- FACT
This isn’t  a slight on Pitt, this game is super important to both programs, but a Pitt win would have a greater overall effect on their program than it would for Penn State. Penn State outside of the PA college football bubble is still dealing with major national reputation and image problems tied to the Sandusky scandal.  Beating Pitt would be great win for PSU  but it is hardly a win that could soften the public’s perception of the program.  So in the long run this game will have little to no impact on the PSU program.

Pitt however is attempting to set the bar awful high with where coach Narduzzi want to take this program. The man is talking ACC predominance in the near future.  A loss to PSU this season would take some wind out of Pitt’s sails. The expectations from Pitt fans in regards to this game are extremely high. Even though a loss to PSU wouldn’t end the season but it would be taken hard by the fan-base. Let’s be honest; this game is Pitt football’s Super Bowl.

Penn State (AD Sandy Barbour in particular) will regret, once again, being the program that is killing this rivalry by not renewing the series-Fact
I think there will be a huge amount if regret on PSU’s part when this series goes away in 4 years. Once again, as stated earlier, by trying to fabricate fake rivalries with Michigan and OSU, Penn State’s athletic dept, Sandy Barbour in particular, thinks this game is disposable. This game will be highly profitable for both athletic departments and I’m completely confused as to why PSU doesn’t want to keep this game rolling? All I can come up with is that maybe Penn State’s Athletic Department honestly believes it’s football team is way more prestigious at this current point than it actually is or that Rivalry’s don;t matter. Take this quote from the Centre Daily Times:

“I’m interested in creating this balance in our schedule, and putting in the puzzle pieces. We’ll see where Pitt fits in that.”

Barbour said, however, that Penn State doesn’t need a “true” rival.

“No,” she said, grinning a little. “I mean, we’re Penn State. And … I love college football, I love talking about rivalries, but what happens on Saturday afternoon with 107,000 people in a stadium is what our fan base, what our community, what our alumni and our university get fired up about.

This is just sheer hubris on her part.  So PSU doesn’t need rivalry games because all fans need is a great game-day experience and they are happy?

This is some dangerous water. Personally, I think PSU is blind to the national reputation that  it has right now and is still not fully understanding the damage the Sandusky scandal has really done to their national brand. They saw this Pitt series as good way to build back good with its fans. They probably said, we play this series for 4 years then after we re-build we can toss Pitt aside because by then we will be “back”.  Ending this series just stinks to high heaven of arrogance and has the potential to make PSU look bad in the future; especially if Pitt dominates the state in this series.

I’m sure I speak for the entire state of Pennsylvania when I say there hasn’t been a college football game I’ve been this excited about in many years.  This rivalry has always been underrated to the younger demographic of Pitt and PSU fans. I’m hoping these next 4 years opens their eyes to why this rivalry is so important. If the younger fans can understand why this game means so much to fans over 30,  I think there eventually will be a call to make this game a permanent fixture on their schedules.

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