Pitt Panthers Football: Is It Finally Time To Renew the Penn State Rivalry?

Matt Shetler@@buccos12Correspondent IMay 23, 2011

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1:  Coach Joe Paterno of the Penn State Nittany Lions directs play of quarterback Matt McGloin #11 against the Florida Gators January 1, 2010 in the 25th Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Since taking over as Pitt head football coach, Todd Graham has said and done all of the right things, something the program truly needs its head man to do.

Graham stepped up to the plate and hit a home run with his latest comments at an event representing the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association.

To summarize Graham's statements, he said it's time to renew the rivalry between Pitt and Penn State.

First of all, we can't call this a rivalry.  For a rivalry to actually be one, teams need to play each other.

Looking back, however, the Pitt-Penn St. rivalry was once a great thing. A yearly battle between two in-state programs that was littered with future NFL prospects.

That was then, though; this is now.

The two programs last met in 2000 at Three Rivers Stadium, a game won by the Panthers 12-0.

It would be real nice if Graham could persuade Joe Paterno and Co. to resume the series, but in order for that to happen it would take a lot of persuading.

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It seems like Joe Pa still holds a 30-year grudge against the Pitt program that dates back to the fact that the Panthers joined the Big East instead of joining Paterno's dream of an all-sports Eastern league.

That may have been understandable in the early part of the decade when the Panthers program was at rock bottom, but now it's a win-win situation for both programs.

Penn State seems to be holding out for Pitt to agree to a two-and-one series, meaning for every game the Panthers would host, Penn State would host two.

That's ridiculous. The last time I checked, Pitt was a major college program as well.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook once wrote, "The Pitt-Penn State rivalry is bigger than Paterno."

Cook has never written truer words.

Paterno can make this happen again if he's willing—and of course, that's a big if. Throughout the past 15 seasons, Penn State has played one of the lower percentages of ranked out of conference opponents in the nation (among BCS schools).

Many of those games may have been scheduled years in advance when teams like Syracuse may have been better, but the facts are that they don't play a quality out-of-conference schedule.

They improved in that aspect a season ago by scheduling Alabama, but there is still room for improvement. They can drop the Youngstown States of the world and pick up the Panthers. They've dropped teams before and can do it again.

That is, of course, if Paterno is willing. Playing the Panthers not only creates in-state excitement, but would also improve the Nittany Lions' strength of schedule, something that comes in handy when attempting to move up the BCS ladder.

This is a yearly game that should happen. That needs to happen.

Graham can say all of the right things to get the ball rolling, but in the end it takes two to tango.

While fans of both programs would love to see this game take place, the reality is that it's likely a long way off.

The two programs will meet again on the gridiron; unfortunately, it likely won't be until the iconic Paterno is no longer involved in the Penn St. program.

Penn St. leads the all-time series, 50-42-4. Paterno was at the same event as Graham and refused to comment on any questions about Pitt.


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