Miss the Penn State-Pitt rivalry? Unfortunately, Saturday may be the closest fans will get for a while.
The heated rivals haven't played each other since the Panthers shutout the Nittany Lions, 12-0, in 2000, and the fierce series between the intrastate rivals has since been stowed away.
Joe Paterno, of course, was the head coach of Penn State in that loss. But the coach of Pittsburgh was Walt Harris, who will walk the sidelines in a game against the Lions for the first time since that win nine years ago. Harris, who was head coach of the Panthers from 1997-2004, enters his first season as Akron's assistant coach and passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
One of the reasons the two rivals haven't faced off since 2000 was Pittsburgh's denial to play an unbalanced schedule of home games. The rivals to the west probably won't ever approve Penn State's bold two-for-one home game offer. And as long as Paterno is head coach of Penn State, a restart of the rivalry looks almost as likely as Akron pulling the upset this weekend.
Granted, the Zips won't remind too many people of the Panthers, but Harris hasn't shied away from bringing back his past matchups against the Lions.
"He's brought it up a little bit," Akron quarterback Chris Jacquemain said. "But we haven't gone in depth about it."
Zips head coach J.D. Brookhart was formerly an assistant of Harris and was even his offensive coordinator for four years, with his last season ending in 2003 before he became the Akron head coach.
In that 2000 contest, which was hosted by Three Rivers Stadium, Penn State mustered only 225 yards as its seven-game winning streak in the series came to an end.
While at Pittsburgh, Harris basically turned the Panthers into "Wide Receiver U," a nickname like the more popularly known Penn State one, "Linebacker U." During his tenure, two Pittsburgh players won the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the best receiver in the nation. The first player was Antonio Bryant, who won it in 2000 and had three catches for 70 yards in the series' final game.
Akron figures to bring its high-powered passing attack on Saturday. Although it won't have weapons like Larry Fitzgerald -- Harris' second Biletnikoff winner -- quarterback Jacquemain and Co. will most likely top 250 yards passing.
On Saturday, Harris and Brookhart return to face the blue and white. And while it won't be at the scene of the crime -- Three Rivers Stadium is no longer standing -- they're bringing their high-powered offense and familiar uniforms dominated by blue and gold, much like Pittsburgh.
So if fans are aching for a Lions-Panthers game, fans may need to just look at the similar jerseys and pretend that the Kangaroo on the helmet actually says "Pitt."
Yes, this isn't the real thing. But fans should take advantage of this small opportunity.
It may be the last one for a long time.