The general consensus seems to be that Penn State is doing Pitt a favor by renewing the historical rivalry. If the series started this season, the sentiment might ring true. With a five year cushion, however, there is plenty of time for change.
Not since 2000 have the two Pennsylvania teams squared off. The constant barrage of snobbish criticisms aimed at Pitt for the last 11 years is enough to make you think Penn State forgot about the 12-0 loss suffered in the series last game. The PSU air of supremacy appears even more foolish when learning that they only hold a 50-42 advantage in wins.
Fast-forward five years. Will the Nittany Lions still be better off than the Panthers?
Each conference will have expanded by the first meeting. The Big 10, who will introduce Nebraska this season, is certainly looking to grab more members. Texas Christian University will join the Big East shortly, and at least one of East Carolina, Central Florida, or Houston will soon follow. One reason why Joe Paterno and company have refused to play Pitt is because of the gap in conference quality. Keep in mind though, TCU defeated Big 10 champion Wisconsin in Rose Bowl this season–not bad for the weak Big East.
Also, by 2016, each program will feature a different look on the sidelines. Todd Graham is bringing his high octane offense to Pittsburgh while Jay Paterno or Tom Bradley will take the helm at State College. If Graham’s success transfers from Tulsa to Pitt, the Panthers could easily be the more respected team in five years. And, few are expecting a smooth transition from Paterno to his successor at Penn State.
In terms of NFL production, the two, again, sport similar statistics. Penn State features 29 current NFL players while Pitt boasts 26–two of which are All-pros Darrelle Revis and Larry Fitzgerald.
On the recruiting front, the decision to revive the rivalry may not help either program. Western Pennsylvania, while still strong, has seen a sharp drop-off in Division I football players. Statistically speaking, over the past five years, Pitt has out-recruited Penn-State in the region.
Unfortunately, the series may only be renewed for two seasons. Had Miami not backed out of a home-and-home series with PSU, the Nittany Lions would never have shown interest in playing the Panthers.
“We’ve always been in favor of playing the game every year if we could. We feel it’s an important rivalry and you can see from the response to this that it’s a game people like. It doesn’t matter where you grew up, you grew up watching Pitt-Penn State as one of those great national games.”
With an increased Conference schedule and out-of-conference games already planned, Penn State is claiming they cannot make room for an extended rivalry. I find it hard to believe that they could not cut out NCAA powers like Indiana State, Eastern Michigan, and Temple to make room though.