Penn State and Pittsburgh announced this week that they would resume their once long-running rivalry for at least two years, beginning in 2016. The game is sure to be a hot topic for Pennsylvanians between now and then, and it's a perfect setup for a debate between Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett and Big East blogger Andrea Adelson.
Brian Bennett: Andrea, how is my old conference beat treating you? Good thing they didn't set us up as a blogger-in-waiting thing, because I may have started some rumors about your behavior at casinos.
Anyway, I think we both agree that the Pitt-Penn State game is a good thing for college football. Frankly, I was surprised to see it happen. The Nittany Lions had been holding out since the last game in 2000, wanting at least two out of every three meetings to be played in Beaver Stadium. Since the series was announced, I've heard from several Penn State fans who wonder what their school has to gain by this game. And while it's great for football in the state, I tend to agree that the Nittany Lions don't necessarily need this series.
What has been the reaction from Pitt fans, and who stands to benefit more from this rivalry resumption?
Andrea Adelson: Brian, you were not supposed to mention anything about the casinos! Thanks a lot for ruining my rep three weeks into the job.
As for the Penn State-Pitt game, I think the overwhelming majority of Panthers fans are excited because they never wanted this game to end. They also believe this means there is no way JoePa is coaching the team in 2016 because they are convinced he is the reason the series ended. But even with the excitement, there are those who say it is no big deal because it is just two games.
What do two games against a former rival really mean? In the time since the Penn State series ended, West Virginia has become a much more bitter rival. The "Backyard Brawl" is one of the nastiest rivalries in all of college football. I don't think that changes even though this series resumes. That being said, playing Penn State is extremely important for Pitt. Anytime a Big East team gets an opportunity to play a marquee team from a conference like the Big Ten, the stakes are much higher. Beating Penn State would definitely be a big win for Pitt and the Big East itself. The league can use all the big nonconference wins it can get.
BB: Andrea, we all know JoePa will be coaching for at least 20 more years, even if he's calling plays via Skype by then. Anyway, I agree that a win over Penn State would be big for Pitt and the Big East, potentially. But unless Todd Graham gets the Panthers playing at an elite level, beating Pittsburgh probably won't be considered a marquee victory for the Nittany Lions, while a loss could damage Penn State's reputation and recruiting efforts in Western Pennsylvania.
But you mentioned the West Virginia-Pitt rivalry, and I think that's an important point. Penn State doesn't really have a true annual rivalry game right now. The school still feels like somewhat of an outsider in the Big Ten as that league's far Eastern school. Sure, Syracuse and Temple appear at times on the schedule, but those games simply wouldn't move the needle as much as a duel against the state's other AQ team. College football is at its best when there are good old-fashioned neighborly feuds to follow.
I know Pitt would like this to be an annual home-and-home series (if for no other reason than to guarantee a rare sellout at Heinz Field). Right now, only two games are scheduled. Do you think the two schools should extend this to a yearly date like it used to be?
AA: Absolutely. I think both schools would have something to gain. As you mentioned, Penn State has no true rival and getting Pitt back on the schedule would certainly help. Fans would enjoy watching a game against Pitt, as opposed to the Cupcake U. flavor of the year. What does Penn State really have to lose here? I understand about the extra home dates, but how much money are we really talking about Penn State losing if they go on the road every other year to play Pitt? Florida State and Florida still play each other in a home-and-home series, and they have been able to maintain their strong rivalry and fill in the rest of their home dates without a problem. What does Penn State have to lose with this game, other than an old grudge from JoePa?
BB: Well, Penn State has to consider the very real possibility that the Big Ten will go to nine conference games by 2016. That means there are only three nonconference games available, and the Nittany Lions would want to schedule at least one guarantee game. If the school wants to have another big-name opponent like the current Alabama series, then all of a sudden the schedule becomes both very difficult and perhaps not financially feasible.
Then again, Penn State likes to believe its program is vastly superior to Pitt's. So why not prove it on the field?