Growing up in Western Pa, you have many choices to make. Will you vote Democrat or Republican? Should I have Pierogies or a Primanti’s sandwich? Roethlisberger or Bradshaw? But maybe the most important decision that you will make is if you will be a Penn State fan or a Pitt fan. WVU will have a mix as well, but when it comes down to it, you are a Nittany Lion or a Panther. From 1893 until 2o00, these teams have played each other 96 times with Penn State owning the series record at 50-42-4. With scheduling conflicts and differences between the athletic departments, the teams have left their fans only hoping for the renewal of this heated rivalry.
With Coach Joe Paterno earning his 400th career victory against Northwestern, it had me thinking about the rivalry that once was. What if the schools started it back up? What if Penn State played Pitt today to earn Paterno’s milestone victory, could there be a better script written? Having followed both teams, put their conferences to the side because God knows how bad the Big East is and put these teams up against each other to see who has the better team.
Coach- Joe Paterno PSU vs. Dave Wannstedt Pitt- Two coaches who are known for their recruiting and two who have been questioned lately for their on field play calling and attentiveness. Paterno has 400 career wins and is arguably the best Coach to have ever coach in Division 1 football. Wannstedt has gathered 40 wins in six seasons for his alma mater and is recognized as a great recruiter. Advantage – Joe Paterno. If I’m a recruit, I’ll take Paterno who has been coaching since before man walked on the moon. Say what you will about his age and his actual coaching, Paterno is a legend and has been consistent for so long.
Quarterback – Rob Bolden PSU vs. Tino Sunseri Pitt – A top 10 recuit in Bolden who took the reigns as a true freshman for the Lions has had a solid season when able to stay healthy throwing for 5 touchdowns and 1,307 yards (as of print). Sunseri, a sophomore hometown Pittsburgh kid, started off the season rough, but has come into his own gaining Wannstedt’s confidence and built a connection with his receivers. Advantage – Tino Sunseri. Bolden’s future looks bright, but Sunseri has more weapons around him and the leadership to win now.
Running Backs – Evan Royster, Silas Redd PSU vs. Dion Lewis, Ray Graham Pitt – Royster is the all time leading rusher in Penn State history and Redd is a solid complimentary back. Lewis was a preseason Heisman candidate after his impressive Freshman year. Graham bursted onto the scene this year as Lewis struggled to find the magic he had last year. Advantage – Pitt. With Sunseri’s development forcing the opposing Defense to respect the Pitt QB, the lanes open up for Lewis and Graham.
Wide Receivers – Derek Moye, Brett Brackett PSU – Jon Baldwin, Mike Shanahan Pitt – Moye, a Rochester, Pa product, is the leader of the Receiving core and has another year ahead of him, while Brackett is tied for a team high 3 td’s. Baldwin was a projected 1st round pick and has seen his play go up with Sunseri’s play. Teams who double on Baldwin, get burnt by his counterpart, Mike Shanahan. Advantage – Pitt. With a more established receiving core, the Panther have to get the nod over the improving Nittany Lions.
Offensive Line – Advantage- Penn State. Pitt’s line has shuffled all year and are still looking to find their groove. Penn State has the more experienced linemen to protect their Freshman QB.
Defensive Line – Advantage – Pitt. With Jabaal Sheard, Greg Romeus and Brandon Lindsey up front, there may not be a better line in the nation.
Linebackers – Advantage – PSU. They aren’t called Linebacker-U for nothing. Chris Colasanti and Michael Mauti are continuing the great tradition in happy valley.
Secondary – Advantage – Push. Close call here. Nick Sukay and his secondary mates have played good this season. Dom DeCicco and Jared Holley lead the Pitt team in interceptions. I can see the argument for either side.
Special teams – Advantage – Pitt. Electrifying returner’s Cam Saddler and Ray Graham keep the opposition on notice at all times, while Dan Hutchins has excelled as the Punter and Kicker.
Overall – Pitt. While it’s close, I give Pitt the nod as of right now. The only way to tell would be to have these two teams resume their great rivalry. Put the scheduling to the side and give the fans what they want.
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com