2010 West Virginia Mountaineers Football Preview: Pittsburgh

Chris HumphreyCorrespondent IAugust 20, 2010

When people think the day after Thanksgiving, what would be the most obvious response?

For the fans of West Virginia and Pittsburgh, the Backyard Brawl is front and center while some shopping day isn’t a priority when the Mountaineers and Panthers are playing on a cold November Friday night this season.

The Backyard Brawl has been a college football tradition as the rivalry first began in 1895 with a Mountaineer win in Wheeling, WV by a score of a mere 8-0.

Since that opening game, the rivalry has spanned over one hundred meetings in various locations within and around the cities of Pittsburgh and Morgantown.

Besides a late season loss to the Mountaineers, the Panthers finished the 2009 season second in the Big East standings after falling short in an epic offensive showcase with Cincinnati.

The Panthers offense was the second best squad in the Big East with gaining nearly 400 yards while scoring 32 points in the 2009 season.  On the national season, the Panthers finished 52nd in total defense along with being 21st in scoring.

On a closer look at the offense, the passing game finished third in the Big East along with being 67th nationally with more than 211 yards through the air last season.

The quarterback position will be young this year as sophomore Tino Sunseri will take the reins of the offense after the graduation of Bill Stull this past off-season. Sunseri was passed over last season in favor of Stull as he had much more experience to work with in the 2009 season.

The rushing game was a huge portion of the offense as it collected more than 180 yards a game for a national rank of 34th while being second in the Big East.

Unlike the quarterback position, the running back position is solid with return of play-maker Dion Lewis who will be coming off an amazing freshman campaign of nearly 1800 yards and 17 touchdowns.

At the receiver corps, Pittsburgh will have junior Jonathan Baldwin who brought down 57 receptions along with more than 1100 and eight touchdowns. Sophomore Mike Shanahan will join Baldwin as one of the best receiving threat tandems in the Big East in 2010.

The Pittsburgh defense was respectable in 2009 as the unit gave up more than 320 yards per game to a somewhat weak schedule. The team was scored on at a clip of 20 points per game besides the lack of defense that was shown in the informal Big East championship game against Cincinnati in early December.

The pass defense bent but didn’t break in 2009 as it gave up 213 yards to opponents ranking fifth in the conference and 49th for the nation. On the ground, the rush defense was much better as it only gave up 106 yards good enough for third in the Big East and 17th in the nation.

The senior dynamic duo of defensive ends Greg Romeus and Jabal Sheard collected 13 sacks and 22 tackles for a loss in 2009.

Romeus, the Big East defensive player of the year, was going to make the jump to the pros but decided against it and returned to Pittsburgh for his senior season.

The youthful part of the Panthers defense will be cornerbacks Antwuan Reed and Saheed Imoru who will both be first year starters in 2010. While speaking of youth, sophomore Dan Mason will return at middle linebacker as he made a name for himself as big hitter on defense.

The special teams will be made up of All-Big East kicker/punter Dan Hutchins as he went 23-39 for field goals and netting more than 41 yards per punt in 2009.

As Pittsburgh tries to avenge their loss last year in Morgantown, the Mountaineers will once again trip the Panthers this time at Heinz Field by a score of 31-28.


Next Game: Rutgers vs West Virginia, December 4th, 2010