Penn State vs. Pitt: 100 and Done

By John Morgan on September 13, 2019 at 1:30 pm
Sep 9, 2017; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions safety Marcus Allen (2) reacts after tackling Pittsburgh Panthers running back Darrin Hall (22) in the end zone for a safety during the fourth quarter at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Pitt 33-14.
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Exactly two years ago, I wrote a midway article about the renewal of the series between Penn State and Pitt. I wrote about the first two games and gave a glimpse of what the next two games may hold. My foresight was blurry at times, as you can imagine, but we're now here for the 100th meeting between the in-state rivals. I wanted to take time to reflect on a rivalry that will never die, but a game that remains unscheduled into the future.

The history of the rivalry is well documented and there is no need to bore you with the details, but here are a few. Penn State started off fast, but then between 1913-1938, Pitt absolutely dominated the series. Since 1960, Penn State is 29-10-1 and former Penn State coach Joe Paterno boasted a 23-7-1 record vs. the Panthers. 

When the Big Ten announced that they were expanding in 1990, Penn State was an obvious choice as an independent in football and an Atlantic-10 member in basketball. The Nittany Lions would remain an independent through 1992, and as it turns out, the Penn State rivalry with Pitt would suffer a fatal blow. Talks of creating an eastern conference in the early 80s that included Penn State, Pitt, Boston College and Syracuse died on the doorstep and that kind of conference realignment was far too advanced for it's time. 

In that 1992 game between Penn State and Pitt, the Nittany Lions won 57-13 and the annual game was done. Since that game, they will have only played eight times after Saturday. In the 25-plus years following Penn State's acceptance into the Big Ten, college football has seen seismic changes and the interstate rivalry has become as casualty. 

As Matt wrote last year, the game is going away and he shared the thoughts of many Penn State fans that it is just fine. There is a segment of both fanbases that feel like these two teams should play every year. Though James Franklin talked about getting creative for another meeting, the series is all but over. There are some Big Ten vs. ACC bowl affiliations where the matchup could happen, but aside from the odd one-off bowl scenario, another game isn't likely. 

Well I bored you with more details than planned, but as I mentioned two years ago, I am not only the elder statesman of the blog, I am the lone Pittsburgh native and resident. My thoughts are not much different than Matt's article, but I feel like when the series died in 1992, a lot changed. It went from annual bragging rights to something I'm not going to miss all that much. We can debate the merits of playing Pitt and it's implications on a résumé at the end of the season, but that is moot after this season.

At his press conference Tuesday, James Franklin brought up a great point when he said, "I also think there's aspects of this game that bring out the worst of both fan bases and populations, and I know some people may say that's good. I don't know if that's good. I think we can have a great game without all that other stuff."

College football is an arms race now and in that respect, money talks and rivalries walk. Though they may not play again, both sides will hate-watch the other and take some joy if they falter. In it's heyday, both teams needed each other, but that time has long passed. It feels like a breakup of that old high school couple that would never break up, but in the end, it will probably be best for both sides.

For my sanity, until I die, Go State!