In an era when UConn and UCF are playing for a (made-up) trophy, you would think that at the very least the Syracuse Orange and Pittsburgh Panthers would have followed suit by now (we even tried to make up one).
Surely it can't just be us. Surely the powers-that-be realize that the yearly contest between these two rivals has about as much heat and fire in it as a December day in Onondaga County. This annual contest exists and yet it doesn't. We know Syracuse and Pitt play a football game every year. We know it counts towards both our final records. We know we'll do it again next year and the year after. But I'll be damned if I could tell you anything about any Syracuse - Pitt game that's ever happened.
We've talked about this at length before. Despite the fact that we've played every season since 1955 and we both followed one another to the Big East and then to the ACC, it's perpetually one of the least interesting games on the slate for both schools. It's like the flu shot of football games. You know you have to do it. It's probably good for you (or is that just what Obama wants you to believe???). But you don't really look forward to it.
In a season full of Nooners, it's the ultimate Nooner.
One of the big reasons for the lack of rivalry in this rivalry is that the Syracuse - Pitt game never seems to be mean anything. There's rarely any stakes, at least stakes that matter beyond "another win towards bowl eligibility." More often that not, one team is much better than the other. More often than not, one team dominates the series for long stretches. Case in point...
- Between 1957 and 1968, Syracuse won nine of twelve games.
- Between 1973 and 1983, Pitt won every single meeting.
- Between 1984 and 2001, Syracuse absolutely owned the Panthers, 16-1-1, including an 11-game winning streak.
- Since 2002, Pitt has won all but two contests (11-2)
This year, the Panthers are cruising toward their best season in years. They're 5-1 and nationally-ranked for the first time since 2010. The Orange have squandered their good start and are mired in a three-game losing streak that could very well turn into something much worse. Even a win here doesn't make anyone feel better knowing what's looming.
Maybe they'll be an exciting game. There have been exciting contests between us, even if they recede into the background within a few weeks. Yeah it was a great game, but it was a great Syracuse - Pitt game.
Making a trophy wouldn't fix anything but it might not hurt. Laugh all you want, that trophy Bob Diaco dreamed up for UConn and UCF made everyone pay attention. People started caring, even if it was in a joking manner. But I bet UConn fans won't be laughing if they lose the trophy next year.
Ultimately, it's going to take both programs turning into legitimate contenders at the same time in order to make this rivalry feel relevant. Like everything else with Syracuse Football, win more games and everything else falls into place. You fill the Carrier Dome. You improve the program. And games against Pitt suddenly have a weight they haven't. Especially if Pat Narduzzi keeps this up.
In the meantime, we'll tune in. We'll root for the Orange. They'll root for the Panthers. Someone will win. Someone will lost. We'll do it all again next year.
Rinse. Repeat. Rivalry.