The teams have played one another every season since 1955. And yet, unlike nearly every other series that’s lasted that long, this game still isn’t a rivalry at all. As you know, the ACC didn’t get the memo and forces us to play one another every year anyway.
Last year may have put some effort into changing that, however. Even if last year’s game was still a double-digit win for the Panthers, the record-setting game was entertaining as hell. It was everything we wanted for Babers-ball — outside of getting a win — and everyone in college football was talking about the result.
Think about the games that we’ve honed in on as fans in recent years. Both LSU games, the 10-point Clemson loss in 2015, last week’s loss... other close calls with better opponents, and even most of our recent wins. All of those were dwarfed by a 76-61 game against Pittsburgh that showed the apex of what this system was capable of.
It might’ve also shown glimpses of what this rivalry is capable of, if it’s ever to turn into something worthwhile to either fan base. Sure, Pitt has other teams to care about in Penn State and West Virginia. And we do too with Boston College and probably WVU, even if we won’t face them anytime soon. But plenty of second- or third-tier rivalries matter in football. Look around most major conferences and you’ll find an extensive list of seemingly pointless trophies.
It still needs more than last year’s game, though. And that’s where this year’s matchup comes in.
Pitt’s defense is still bad, and their offense woke up this weekend. Our defense is improved, and our offense is a step behind last year’s in terms of explosiveness. We don’t necessarily need 137 points scored on Saturday to make this entertaining. A “run-of-the-mill” 45-40 points-fest will do the trick.
Perhaps as a fan base we need a blowout win over a bad Pitt team. And I do agree with that as the greater goal here for this specific season. If we want to start (finally) turning this Pitt matchup into something, though, another close game full of minimal defense — and a Syracuse win -- could put us on the path to doing that.
(but yeah, if SU wants to just run over the Panthers by 40, I’m also perfectly happy with that)