Here is everything you need to know ahead of the matchup between the West Virginia Mountaineers and the Pittsburgh Panthers.
Saturday, September 16; 6:30 p.m. CT; Milan Puskar Stadium; Morgantown, West Virginia
Radio: Mountaineer Sports Network (Tony Caridi, Dwight Wallace, Jed Drenning)
Records: West Virginia (1-1); Pitt (1-1)
Series History: Pitt leads series, 62-40-3
Last Meeting: Pitt 38, West Virginia 31
Line: Pitt (-1.0)
Fun Fact: Pitt vs. West Virginia, otherwise known as the Backyard Brawl, is one of the oldest college football rivalries in the nation, with the first meeting taking place on October 26, 1895, in Morgantown, West Virginia, with the Mountaineers winning, 8-0.
West Virginia Mountaineers
QB Garret Greene
The evolution of West Virginia’s offense in 2023 is going to depend on Garret Greene’s ability to develop as a passer. Through two games, he is completing 57.8% of his passes for 402 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. He’s also added 104 rushing yards and one score on the ground with 20 carries, showing he’s still a capable dual-threat. Greene will need to be nails in this rivalry game, and he’s certainly capable of doing so.
LB Lee Kpogba
Lee Kpogba is the heart and soul of the West Virginia defense and has an early lead in team tackles with 15 through two games. The senior out of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, had to watch Pitt steal a victory from WVU last season, and with this being his last go-round with the Panthers, I expect a big performance.
QB Phil Jurkovec
Phil Jurkovec has had a very similar start to the 2023 season that Greene has had, as his accuracy is down (49.1%), but he’s managed not to throw any interceptions despite his struggles there. During his time at Boston College, Jurkovec seemed to find ways to will his team to victory, and it appears that he’ll need to do the same at Pitt this season. However, that’s much easier said than done in this rivalry, especially on the road.
DL Dayon Hayes
As the most experienced defensive lineman that Pitt returned in 2023, Dayon Hayes is expected to be the leader of the Panthers’ front. With two sacks already in ’23, and a career season-high of 3.5 in 2022, Hayes looks primed to have his best year to date. This week against WVU, he will face a stout offensive line, and he will be a key for them in the trenches.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Can the Mountaineers avoid the costly turnovers this year? A season ago, J.T. Daniels threw a tide-turning pick-six late in the game that ultimately cost West Virginia a victory. This time around, it’ll be Garret Greene leading the offense, and he’ll need to be clean. Avoid the turnovers and run the football effectively, and I like the Mountaineers’ chances at home.
Can Phil Jurkovec lead Pitt into Morgantown and win? Last week, he completed just 10-32 attempts, but luckily, three of those went for scores. It still wasn’t enough, as Cincinnati did what it needed to to win the game in the end. Now, outside the confines of Acrisure Stadium, Jurkovec will have to deal with a hostile road environment after a tough loss a week ago. Can he shake things off and move forward?
PREDICTION: West Virginia 27, Pitt 24
In a perfect revenge-type game, I like West Virginia to storm back late from a 10-14 point deficit to steal this game and send Pitt home with a losing record. I have a feeling Greene is going to play well in this game and give WVU some confidence heading into Big 12 play, so give me West Virginia, as the home underdog, to win the game.