5 Reasons Why the Backyard Brawl is the Biggest Football Game in Pittsburgh This Season

5 Reasons Why the Backyard Brawl is the Biggest Football Game in Pittsburgh This Season

Pitt and West Virginia Renew Their Famous Rivalry in Pittsburgh Sept. 1, 2022

From 1895-2011, the University of Pittsburgh and West Virginia University shared a famous football rivalry titled “The Backyard Brawl,” anticipated and well known around the country. Because of the breakup of their conference, the Big East, the teams have not met in more than a decade, last playing in 2011. 

On Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, these proud football programs will finally take the field against each other again. We break down why the renewal of the “Backyard Brawl” will be Pittsburgh’s most anticipated football game this fall.

1) The History

In 1895, West Virginia defeated the Western University of Pennsylvania (WUP) 8-0 in Morgantown, West Virginia. WUP would eventually become the University of Pittsburgh, and these two schools would go on to meet 104 times in on the field. With campuses only 75 miles away from each other, both teams often recruited players from each other’s territories. Because of that, this game became known as the Backyard Brawl. Over time, one of the oldest and most competitive rivalries in college football was formed. 

Pitt leads the all-time series 61-40-3, with many great games being shared between them. In 2007, the 100th edition of the game, 4-7 Pitt famously upset undefeated West Virginia in Morgantown. That result denied West Virginia a chance at the BCS title game that year. WVU would get their revenge and win three games in row from 2009-11 before the series went on hiatus. Many other notable occasions marked this rivalry, including in 1921 when the Backyard Brawl was the first college football game ever broadcast on the radio.

The legend of this game speaks for itself, with more than a century of history, iconic moments and star players. We know the fans can’t wait for that history to continue Sept. 1.

University of Pittsburgh – Credit: Tom Altany

2) Pitt and WVU’s Recent Success

A big part of what makes this rivalry awesome is how great these teams have been historically, and their recent success will also grow the anticipation. Despite being picked to finish 4th in the ACC Coastal Division during last year’s ACC preseason poll, Pitt had their best season in 40 years. The Panthers ended Clemson’s reign over the ACC, finishing 11-3 and comfortably defeating Wake Forest 45-21 to win their first ACC football championship. Pitt also finished the season ranked 13th in the final national AP Poll. The Panthers have an overall record of 66-48 since joining the ACC in 2013.

West Virginia finished last season with a 6-7 record but did have notable wins over Virginia Tech and Texas. WVU has had consistent success during their new era in the Big 12 Conference and finished ranked in the final AP Poll in 2016 and 2018. WVU also has a winning record in 7/10 seasons in the Big 12, with an impressive overall record of 68-56 since 2012. This recent success for both programs sets the stage for a Backyard Brawl that will set the tone for the rest of the season.

3) The National Attention

This game is not just anticipated by local fans, but also by college football fans around the country. That's why ESPN scheduled the Backyard Brawl as the first game of the 2022 season and in a primetime position - Thursday, Sept. 1, at 7 p.m. Many college football media outlets are writing about the renewal of the Backyard Brawl and what it means for college football, including ESPN, 247 Sports and The Athletic. Most recently, ESPN announced College Gameday, one of the most-watched college football talk shows on TV, will be in Pittsburgh before the game. There's no doubt plenty of eyeballs will be on Acrisure Stadium on Sept. 1.

University of Pittsburgh – Credit: Tom Altany

4) The QB Connection

Everyone knows that the player who turns every football team from good to great is the quarterback. Just ask Pitt and WVU fans about Kenny Pickett and Pat White. Both teams will have new quarterbacks this season, and they have a very interesting connection.

Pitt transfer QB Kedon Slovis and WVU transfer QB JT Daniels were previously teammates at the University of Southern California. JT Daniels was supposed to be USC’s starter in 2019. Slovis would go on to win the Pac-12 Conference Freshman of the Year Award that season. Both quarterbacks eventually transferred out of USC and now find themselves facing each other in this highly anticipated matchup. Former teammates matching up at QB with different schools is unheard of in college football.

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5) The Players

Although both teams lost some key contributors, like Pitt’s Heisman finalist QB Kenny Pickett and WVU’s leading rusher Leddie Brown, they both back some great players. Pitt is returning an impressive six All-ACC defenders. The most notable is defensive lineman Calijah Kancey, who recorded seven sacks and 13 tackles for a loss in 2021. Linebacker SirVocea Dennis, who led the team with 87 tackles last season, also returns to the Pitt roster.

Pitt will face a WVU offense led by top transfer JT Daniels, as well as all-conference linemen Zach Frazier and Brandon Yates. WVU's leading wide receiver should be Bryce Ford-Wheaton who has tallied 991 yards and six touchdowns over the past two seasons.

The most-anticipated returning player for WVU is defensive lineman Dante Stills. Stills is a three-time All-Big 12 selection and has recorded 111 tackles, 20 sacks and three forced fumbles during his great WVU career. That line will be up against Pitt’s accomplished new QB Kedon Slovis. Pitt is bringing back a lot of pieces from last year’s ACC Championship team, including the entire starting offensive line back from using their extra eligibility to return. Pitt also brings back pass catchers Jared Wayne (658 yards and six TDs last season) and Gavin Bartholomew, a freshman All-American tight end. And these players seem very excited for the renewal of the Backyard Brawl.