Good slate of college football tonight with Penn State traveling to Purdue and West Virginia heading up to Pittsburgh for the Backyard Brawl.

I know we’ve got some Pitt fans who read the site, so let’s start there –

Isn’t the hype for this game great? It’s the first Backyard Brawl in some time, actually, and it’s cool to see it happen again, but it’s also a reminder of how lame conference realignment was. You’ve got two classic rivals here separated by ~70 miles and playing a non-conference game because Pitt went to the ACC and WVU headed to the Big 12 when the Big East collapsed.

Penn State used to play both schools all the time. You go back to 1893 to find the first Penn State/Pittsburgh football game, which the Nittany Lions won 32-0. Since then, the teams have played 99 more times, with PSU leading the all-time series 53-43 (with four ties). This game didn’t happen between 2000 and 2016, but both schools set up an out of conference series that saw four-straight games played from 2016 to 2019. Penn State went 3-1 in that stretch.

Likewise, Penn State and WVU first played in 1904 and have faced each other more than 50 times, with the Nittany Lions mostly kicking our ass along the way. That series stopped in 1992 and will return in 2023, which it should, because the teams are only three hours apart.

I know some PSU fans shit on the idea of playing Pitt, WVU, or even Syracuse/Virginia Tech/Temple because they see themselves as a large Big 10 school in the Ohio State and Michigan vein. There’s truth to that. They do exist on a higher college football plane, but it’s not like the eastern schools are minnows. This isn’t some FCS cakewalk with no upside. It would be one thing to hammer Slippery Rock every year, but Penn State playing Pitt and WV out of conference, then going through the Big 10 schedule would be really fun and give them a good strength of schedule.

Some thoughts from readers:

Agree with this, I think that’s a lingering thought, even in 2022.

Good point here from Jon at FOX Sports the Gambler:

East Carolina plays NC State this weekend and Appalachian State plays UNC. That’s fun man, gotta love those in-state matchups early in September. Keep it local, get a good crowd going, etc.

I get that it’s all about money now, and we’re inevitably heading for a handful of superconferences in a modern NIL world, but geography used to make college football great. Classic rivalries and meaningful games. You can’t tell me that UCLA, USC, Maryland, and Rutgers in the same conference is good for the sport. WVU’s closest conference game is 800 miles away in Iowa, while a non-conference game in Pittsburgh is an hour drive. You’ve got Central Florida joining the Big 12 and Oklahoma joining the SEC. 10 years ago, TCU was in line to join the Big East before it fell apart and Temple currently plays in-conference games in Texas, Tennessee, and Florida.

Money rules the world, so it is what it is, but the fans are the biggest losers in all of this. College football was better when regional rivalry games were valued.