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The Ten Games That Will Determine the Big East in 2011 - #1 Pittsburgh at West Virginia

Over the past ten days, Big East Coast Bias looked at the ten games that we think will be the most vital in crowing the Big East football champion in 2011. It's difficult to narrow the list down to ten, so take the list with a grain of salt, but in looking over the conference's contenders and the schedule for 2011, these are the games we think we will look back upon and see were the most critical in determining the Big East's champion. Up next, our number one game, Pittsburgh at West Virginia.

At long last, our #1 game: The Backyard Brawl. This is the rivalry game in the Big East. The Backyard Brawl started 
back in 1895. Pitt leads the all-time series 61-39-3. However, since the Big East added football in 1991, it is the Mountaineers who have the edge with a record of 13-6. The most nationally significant win in this series had to be the 100th edition in 2007 when the 4-7 Panthers defeated the #2 Mountainers 13-9. That game became part of the scenario which allowed LSU to get to the BCS National Championship.

Last Year

While it wasn't significant nationally, last year's Backyard Brawl certainly impacted the Big East standings. Connecticut held tiebreakers over both Pittsburgh and West Virginia. However, Pitt's only loss in the Big East was to the Huskies. Then, West Virginia blew out the turnover prone Panthers 35-10. As long as UConn didn't blow it against Cincinnati or South Florida, they were heading to the BCS. And, that's exactly what happened. Connecticut and not preseason favorite Pittsburgh won the Big East and got the BCS bid.

Pittsburgh was an absolute mess in this game last year: six fumbles (three lost) and an interception led to 21 West Virginia points. The Mountaineers can't be blamed for feasting on Pitt not being able to get out of their own way. The score was only 14-7 in favor of West Virginia at halftime. The game got out of hand in the third quarter with two West Virginia touchdowns sandwiched around a Panthers field goal. For the second straight year, the Mountaineers ruined things for the Panthers (a last second field goal helped West Virginia upset #8 Pitt in 2009).

This Year

Will West Virginia make it three years in a row of killing Pitt's Big East title dreams in 2011? Yes. Both teams will have more offense than we've seen from them in about a half a decade. The game should be fairly high scoring and exciting, not one of those games where both teams struggle to crack 20 points. I really think this game will live up to the hype we are giving it. I can't wait for November 25 to see Todd Graham's "high octane" offense against Dana Holgorsen's "Red Bull" offense so I'm going to load that up on NCAA Football 12 when the game comes out.

One of the reasons I'm picking West Virginia in this game is that it will be played at the newly beer friendly Mountaineer Field. Both teams will be coming off of an open date so that factor is a push. Pittsburgh will have a tougher schedule so any wear and tear should be weighing more heavily on them than on the Mountaineers. Lastly, Holgorsen and Graham have met before in Conference USA. When Holgorsen was the quarterback's coach and offensive coordinator at Houston they defeated then head coach of Tulsa Todd Graham's teams in 2008 and 2009. The scores of those games: Houston 70, Tulsa 30 (2008) and Houston 46, Tulsa 45 (2009).

I expect (and sincerely hope for) for a result more like the 2009 matchup than the 2008 game. Ultimately, I think Holgorsen will beat Graham again and the Mountaineers will win the Big East.

Previous Installments:

#2 West Virginia at South Florida

#3 South Florida at Pittsburgh

#4 Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

#5 Louisville at Cincinnati

#6 West Virginia at Syracuse

#7 Syracuse at Pittsburgh

#8 Connecticut at West Virginia

#9 Pittsburgh at Rutgers

#10 South Florida at Connecticut