The countdown to the start of the 2013 season is under way, as Pitt is 61 days away from its Labor Day opener against Florida State at Heinz Field. Panther-Lair.com is counting down the days until the biggest season opener in recent memory.
Today's number is 61, and that's an important number in one of Pitt's longest and most storied rivalries.
Sometimes the end of an era announces its arrival. When Pitt last faced Penn State in 2000, it was known that the two rivals had no future games scheduled and the series was going on indefinite hiatus.
On November 25, 2011, though, the future of the Pitt-West Virginia series was very much up in the air. Two months earlier, the ACC extended an invitation to Pitt, signaling the end of the Panthers' time in the Big East. In October, West Virginia and the Big 12 formally announced that the Mountaineers would be joining that conference.
What was unknown in November was the status of the rivalry for 2012. Pitt was committed to staying in the Big East at least one more season due to the conference's 27-month waiting period. But the Big 12 was adamant about adding West Virginia in 2012, forcing WVU to pay an increased exit fee in order to leave immediately.
So there was uncertainty that night in Morgantown, uncertainty about whether the Pitt-WVU rivalry, one of the oldest and most heated in college football, would continue behind that evening. The results of that game were disappointing for Pitt, as the Panthers blew leads of 14-0 and 20-7 behind a slew of sacks and mistakes.
The 2011 Pitt-WVU game gave the Mountaineers a three-game winning streak heading into the rivalry hiatus. But that run wasn't enough to give WVU the overall advantage in the series; Pitt leads the all-time series 61-40-3.
With 104 games played since 1895, Pitt has faced West Virginia more than any other opponent. WVU won the first three games in the series, but Pitt went on a run starting in 1094, winning 10 out of the next 11 games; the only non-win was a 0-0 tie in 1909, one of the Panthers' seven consecutive shutouts of the Mountaineers.
Pitt improved on that run with another stretch of dominance over WVU in the 1920's and 1930's. Pitt won 23-of-25 games against WVU from 1924-51. During that stretch, the Panthers shut out the Mountaineers 11 times and held them to single-digit scoring in 22 of the 25 games.
West Virginia's strongest run in the series came as Pitt slipped in the 1990's . From 1988-2006, the Mountaineers won 14-of-19 games, including a pair of rather abusive wins over the Panthers in Dave Wannstedt's first two seasons. Pitt notched arguably the biggest win in the series in 2007, when the 4-7 Panthers knocked No. 2 West Virginia out of the national championship game with a still-unbelievable 13-9 victory in Morgantown.
With Pitt in the ACC and West Virginia in the Big 12, the future of the series is up in the air. Until the two teams meet again, the Panthers will hold their 61-40-3 advantage over the Mountaineers.
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