After a hiatus spanning more than a decade, one of the most storied rivalries in college football is set to begin anew. The Pittsburgh Panthers and the West Virginia Mountaineers will once again face off in the 105th edition of the Backyard Brawl - and ESPN's College GameDay will be on hand for all the fun.
Of course, one of the main reasons the rivalry came to an end in the first place was that both schools switched conferences. West Virginia moved from the Big East to the Big 12 between 2011 and 2012, while Pitt departed for the ACC between 2012 and 2013. So, given that it's been more than a decade since the two sides squared off on the gridiron, we thought we'd get you up to speed ahead of this renewed matchup.
The Backyard Brawl Combatants
Pitt Panthers: The program dates all the way back to 1889 when the school was still known as the Western University of Pennsylvania. In 1904 the University of Pittsburgh was born, when the campus relocated from Observatory Hill in Alleghany to Oakland. Since their move to the ACC in 2013, the Panthers have a 66-50 record and have appeared in seven bowl games. The 2021 season was their first time as ACC champions. They finished with an 11-3 record overall (7-1 in the ACC) and ended last season ranked No. 13 in both the AP and Coaches Polls.
West Virginia Mountaineers: West Virginia University football reaches all the way back to 1891, though the program really started to find success in the 1920s. Their Big 12 record since joining in 2012 is 68-56, and they've been to eight bowl games. Last season the Mountaineers finished with a 6-7 record (4-5 in the Big 12). But with famous NCAA Transfer Portal traveler JT Daniels under center, things may be looking up for West Virginia.
105 Years of Bad Blood Between Bitter Rivals
The first Backyard Brawl took place in 1895, with West Virginia emerging as the victors by a score of 8-0. The proximity of the two schools (about 80 miles apart) adds another dimension to the rivalry. The recruiting pool typically overlapped, heightening the sense of territorial bragging rights each year. Pitt leads the series overall with a 61-40-3 record, and there have been some legendary moments between the two programs over the years. It also ranks among the oldest and best rivalries in the sport.
You only need to go back to recent history to get a sense of what you might be in for when this long dormant grudge match kicks off. Perhaps the biggest moment in the game's history came in 2007, the 100th playing of the Backyard Brawl when Pitt upset WVU in Morgantown. The Mountaineers were undefeated at the time, while Pitt entered the contest sporting a 4-7 record. The 13-9 scoreline ended WVU's hopes of competing for the national championship and was the final game for then head coach Rich Rodriguez. He left for the head coaching job at Michigan.
The Mountaineers would exact revenge when the game returned to Morgantown in 2009. Their squad took down the eighth-ranked Panthers 19-16, with a field goal at the buzzer to claim the victory. It would be the first of three straight wins for WVU in the famed game, with the final one in 2011 happening in come-from-behind style.
What to Expect from the Backyard Brawl in 2022
As the college preseason winds down and the September 1st kickoff at Acrisure Stadium approaches, there are a lot of things to look forward to -- beyond the obvious hype of two storied programs renewing a century-old battle for bragging rights of course.
- Having it serve as the kickoff to ESPN's College GameDay season will immediately put the game in the searing hot national spotlight. The team of Rece Davis, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard, and David Pollack will hold a Special Edition pregame show beginning at 6 p.m. EST ahead of the scheduled 7 p.m. EST kickoff. Expectations and anticipation will be sky-high. So will the vitriol, as the mutual dislike has been a permanent part of this rivalry. Of course, fans outside of the region will be revved up as well.
- The quarterback storyline is a unique one as two former teammates will square off against each other. Kedon Slovis is competing to land the starting job at Pitt, which was vacated by Kenny Pickett, who departed for the NFL. Transfer J.T. Daniels will be under center for the Mountaineers. The two previously played together at USC.
- How will the current players handle being a part of the storied history? Both teams have no doubt done their research into what this rivalry means. Having a game with this kind of importance to kick off their seasons will no doubt add an extra layer of excitement for all of the athletes and coaches who will take part.
This game has been "on the books" since 2015, when the two schools agreed to renew the rivalry. Both Neal Brown of WVU and Pat Narduzzi for Pitt will be first-timers as head coaches in this matchup. This will be the first of eight meetings between the schools. The first set of games will take place between 2022 and 2025, with the second (recently agreed to) extension happening between 2029 and 2032. With all of the lore surrounding this game, it promises to be an entertaining launch to the 2022 NCAA football season.