Just like last season, with a Big East within their grasp, the University of Pittsburgh (6-4) needs to defeat West Virginia University (7-3) for a shot at a BCS game in the annual installment of the Backyard Brawl. Vegas has installed the Panthers as -2 1/2 point favorites to win at home in a battle of schools located just 70 miles apart.
Last season, Pitt lost to both WVU and the University of Cincinnati, derailing their chances of a conference championship. This season, they face the same scenario against the same two opponents. At 4-1, Pitt is poised to take their first Big East championship under head coach Dave Wannstadt but they have to exorcise some demons first. Pitt has had a mediocre season, losing to Utah, Notre Dame, and Miami during the early part of the season, but has rebounded against the modest competition of the Big East. Inexperienced quarterback Tino Sunseri leads the offense and his results have been mixed as have the seasons of RB Dion Lewis (661 yards, 8 TDs) and WR Jonathan Baldwin (677 receiving yards, 5 TDs). A pleasant surprise has been running back Ray Graham (804 yards, 8 TDs). The defense has been mainly solid, averaging 19.2 points against per game.
WVU has struggled in Big East competition with a 3-2 record but owns a defense that is ranked #4 in the country in points against with an average of 12.9. Noel Devine has been their big-play guy at running back, while quarterback Geno Smith has been solid at quarterback with 19 TDs. WR Jock Sanders is a team leader and has caught 54 balls with four TD catches. Look for Smith to go after Pitt defensive backs who were flagged for four pass interference penalties last week.
Pitt has a habit of losing big games and playing against a fired-up defense won’t help. Look for WVU to pull off the road win, beating the Vegas odds, and setting-up a wild final weekend as four or five teams vie for the BCS bowl game.
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