When Boston College and Pittsburgh last met on a gridiron, the Big East was beginning its period of upheaval. Miami and Virginia Tech already departed, with the Eagles leaving at the close of the 2004 season. Because the Hurricanes no longer factored into the race, the quest for the BCS automatic berth became a gumball rally of mediocrity where anyone with an inside track to the conference championship lost.
First it was West Virginia. A preseason top-10 team, the Mountaineers were the early front runners to pick up the Big East championship when they won their first four league game as part of an 8-1 start. But a mid-November loss to Boston College crippled those dreams and they were completely dashed when the Panthers won the Backyard Brawl a week later. An 8-1 start with the hopes of the Fiesta Bowl and national glory turned into an 8-3 finish and a trip to the Gator Bowl.
Then it was our beloved Eagles. Even with the loss to Pittsburgh, the win over West Virginia set the Eagles up on the inside track. Because the Panthers lost to conference newcomer UConn and to Syracuse, BC still only had one league loss, the same as West Virginia, against whom they owned the head-to-head tiebreaker. Then Diamond Ferri happened.
Because BC lost to Syracuse, four teams with two losses wound up tied for the seven team Big East championship. Pittsburgh won the tiebreaker and received a berth to the Fiesta Bowl, where fifth-ranked Utah awaited with a 35-7 bludgeoning. The next season, the Eagles were in the ACC and the matchups with Pittsburgh put on indefinite hiatus.
In the years since, BC and Pittsburgh took extremely different roads. BC would rise to national prominence with back-to-back ACC Championship Game appearances, then fall with the Frank Spaziani era. Pittsburgh puttered along in the Big East with one 10-win season in 2009 and six straight bowl games (three consecutive BBVA Compass Bowls). Last season, the Panthers went a respectable 7-5 after jumping with Syracuse from the sinking Big East ship.
With a limited amount of head-to-head matchups, this is hardly a heated rivalry. But what's old is new once again, and familiar foes will meet on Friday night under the national television and Chestnut Hill lights. Boston College and Pittsburgh. Good to see you boys again.
This Week's Storylines (1980s Movie Soundtrack Edition):
Don't You Forget About Me (The Breakfast Club). Think of the five former Big East schools now in the ACC (excluding Louisville). What we found is that each of us is a brain (Boston College), a basket case (Pittsburgh), an athlete (Virginia Tech), a princess (Syracuse, New York's College Team), and a criminal (Miami). We look at these teams with a certain element, but in the end, they're all the same. They all acknowledged they did something wrong (jumping from one league to another), but you'd be crazy to ask us to tell you why we did it. You're going to believe what you want to believe, Mr. Vernon.
Ghostbusters (Ghostbusters). If you're seeing things, runnin' through your hood, who you gonna' call? The BC DEFENSE. The defense was completely dominant against UMass. This week, it goes up against an offense that completely disemboweled old friend Dave Brock and the FCS-level Delaware Blue Hens. Regardless what we use to justify which unit was better, the fact remains that both BC and Pitt essentially bullied teams with no business being on the same field as ACC schools. But that doesn't mean we can't look at the Pitt offense and know that there's the potential there for a long day. Likewise, the Panthers will need to review game film long and hard to figure out a code to break the Don Brown Defense. At the end of the day, someone better be left calling someone else for help. Or at least feeling "so funky" because "he slimed me."
Side bar - if anyone can name all of the celebs in the music video, you will win a prize pack filled with lots of respect and admiration from the Dan Rubin Nerd Brigade.
Danger Zone (Top Gun). Okay, Ryan Day. We saw what you had to offer against UMass, and while it impressively got the job done, everyone will admit it came against a bad team. We want to see what happens against a conference team that went to a bowl game last year. We're looking forward to seeing the possibilities exhibited on Saturday and to see if this team can transition into a team ready to make the leap. Your offense piled on yardage against the Minutemen. Now let's see if we can rev up the engines and listen to them howl and roar against a real football team.
Matchup Fun Facts:
School: The University of Pittsburgh
Founded: 1787 (Pittsburgh Academy)
All-Time Record: 690-503-42
Claimed National Championships: 9 (1915, 1916, 1918, 1929, 1931, 1934, 1936, 1937, 1976)
Bowl Games: 30
Postseason Record: 13-17
Head Coach: Paul Chryst
All-Time Record: 14-13
Years at School: Three
Head-To-Head With BC:
All-Time Series: Pitt leads, 19-16
Streak: Pitt, 3
Last BC Win: 2001 (45-7 at BC)
Last Pittsburgh Win: 2004 (20-17 in OT at Pitt)
First Meeting: 1959 (Pittsburgh 22, BC 14)