Editorial Graphic - Pitt

Editor's note: This editorial was written by Daily Collegian assistant sports editor Jake Aferiat.

Sometimes common sense has to outweigh nostalgia. 

People love looking back and reminiscing about the good old days and reliving their younger years. Take for example, the Penn State-Pitt football series.

It's a rivalry that's had 99 different meetings and loads of different results, but recently has left a lot to be desired.

The peak of the series came in 1981 when then-No. 11 Penn State beat then-No. 1 Pitt by a score of 48-14 in Pittsburgh — a certain generation would love to go back to that time.

But as historic as the rivalry may be in terms of longevity, and as much as some might like to go back to 1981, the merits of the "rivalry" from a football perspective seem to be fading.

The most recent incarnation of the series began in 2016, which ended a 16-year gap, with 2000 marking the last time the two sides played each other.

Penn State has beaten Pitt by an average of 32 points over the last two meetings including a 51-6 rout last season at Heinz Field.

This season's game will be the 100th in the series and, mercifully, the last for a long time.

It marks the end of a four-year agreement which saw each team host two games and saw Penn State win handily in two out of the three meetings thus far.

Penn State's dominance alone is enough to negate furthering this series, but it lost its luster long before that.

The majority of people at this school likely don't remember the rivalry before the recent revival attempt and just simply can’t have the same emotional attachment, either.

When more than a decade passes between meetings, a rivalry loses steam. A different generation might remember Dan Marino and Todd Blackledge. We got Trace McSorley against...Kenny Pickett. See a difference? 

We're sure there were noble intentions about wanting to genuinely reignite and reinvigorate this rivalry and make it football worth playing, but Penn State seems to have gotten the message that it’s a lost cause.

As it stands now, Pitt has been Penn State's only regularly scheduled nonconference game against a Power Five opponent since the Nittany Lions beat Syracuse 23-17 at MetLife Stadium in 2013.

James Franklin's squad has reversed that trend and scheduled home and home series with ACC school Virginia Tech (2020, 2025), perennial SEC powerhouse Auburn (2021-22) and Big 12 mainstay West Virginia (2023-24).

Raising the level of nonconference competition is important if for no other reason than it aids Penn State's chances at making the College Football Playoff.

The Playoff committee has indicated that, short of winning the Big Ten, you won't be making the Playoff since only two Big Ten teams — Ohio State and Michigan State — have made it since the Playoff's inception. (Though a particularly painful exception comes by the way of Ohio State’s qualification in 2016.) 

Ohio State made it twice with one-loss teams, but the Buckeyes played strong nonconference games against Virginia Tech and Oklahoma, while Michigan State played Oregon when the Spartans made the playoff.

That bodes well for Penn State of the future for actually scheduling one strong nonconference opponent, but with Pitt being the Nittany Lions' sole Power Five opponent, they were disadvantaged from the beginning.

Those games might not have the "rivalry" factor of a Penn State-Pitt game, but for so long the rivalry has been manufactured by various forces that seem to think just because two in-state teams are playing each other, it's a rivalry.

It’s unfortunate to be the bearer of bad news, but there has to be some semblance of competitive balance to the games — that's simply not going to happen until Pitt improves, and there's just no telling when that will happen.

Until then, any continuation of the series would almost exclusively benefit Pitt and would pose negligible benefit to Penn State.

The other factor is the Big Ten's mandate on nine conference games instead of the standard eight, making games against quality nonconference opponents that much more important to potentially making the playoff.

With only three nonconference games, Penn State can't afford to say 'Well, Pitt is a Power Five program, so that will have to do.' There has to be some degree of competitiveness.

It's a tough pill to swallow, but it's clear after 2017 and last season — the attempts to jump start the Penn State-Pitt rivalry are futile and any further games between the two would once again be so far down the road that the next generation likely won't get the significance either.

While it may anger some, it's good Penn State made a football decision and showed it seriously wants to make a College Football Playoff — something fans will come to yearn for more than a meaningless game against Pitt.

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