When the Syracuse Orange host the Pittsburgh Panthers this weekend for the 58th-consecutive season, there will be a lot on the line for both schools. Each at 5-5, the winner guarantees themselves bowl eligibility in their first season in the ACC. It's the second time in three years that this game has such implications, so everyone must be really fired up about those hated Panthers, right?
You know, I write this article every year (see 2011 edition, 2012 edition), and every year it's no less confusing. On paper, this should be THE big rivalry game of the year. We've played every year since 1955, the all-time series is extremely close (Pitt leads 34-31-3) and now we're brothers in "Northern Football (™)" in the ACC.
Yet, even with all of the changes and all of the emotions and all of the implications, the Pitt Panthers are simply another football team across the field from us. My guess is we'll muster up more of a bitter response when Boston College comes a-callin' next week, even though we've played them only once since 2004.
As I mentioned last year, some of it might have to do with the streaky nature of the rivalry. One team or the other has dominated the series over various decades, leaving little room for back-and-forth. Whole generations of each fanbase grew up in a world where one team owned the other and that's just how it was. No reason to get all fired up about it.
So what's it gonna take for Syracuse fans and Pitt fans to get nasty? Well for one thing, we need stakes. Bowl eligibility aside, there's rarely any big stakes involved. Hell, how bout a trophy for starters? It's the basic requirement of any good football rivalry. You're telling me we can't think of a good NY vs. PA-themed trophy that the winning team can trample their own kicker running to grab after beating the other school? Even a made-up version would be a good start.
After that, I think it comes down to both programs becoming very good at the same time. Playing for bowl eligibility is one thing. Playing for a conference crown on a regular basis is another. Obviously, that's asking a lot these days, but there's a big difference between denying Pitt a BBVA Compass Bowl berth and denying Pitt an Orange Bowl berth. And vice versa.
So, we'll just have to wait and see if the ACC does anything for the Syracuse - Pitt rivalry. Worst case, we've always got BC and they've got Virginia Tech. But if history is any judge, we'll keep playing one another every season, whether we care about it or not.
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- Syracuse vs. Boston College: Kickoff Set for 3:30 p.m. ET on November 30
- ACC Football Recap, Week 12: DUKE (?!) in Coastal Driver's Seat
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