A year ago, the Penn State-Pitt rivalry returned for the first time in 16 years with a Panthers victory at home, 42–39. At the time, Penn State was unproven, 1–1 after the loss and still recovering from the Jerry Sandusky scandal and a rotating cast of coaches over the past five seasons. It was James Franklin’s third year in State College, and after the loss at Pitt, it seemed as if another year of rebuilding might be in store.
That was so far from the case. Penn State would lose again, two weeks later against Michigan, before going undefeated the rest of the regular season. Pitt, too, was on its way to a strong showing in 2016; it finished 8–5. Both teams had high hopes for 2017 going into Saturday’s game, and Penn State, the heavy favorite, won by a margin of more than two touchdowns, 33–14, to go to 2–0 on the season. Afterwards, Franklin had fighting words for his team’s biggest in-state rival:
"I know last year beating us for them was like the Super Bowl,” the coach said of Pitt. “This was just like beating Akron for us."
For context, a week ago, Penn State trounced Akron, 52–0. In addition, Pitt also beat eventual national champion Clemson in 2016 in Week 11—a victory that makes the win over Penn State look like a conference championship at best.
Franklin has never shied away from a touch of bombast—or from saying what he really thinks—especially when he feels his team is being slighted. On Saturday Pitt certainly performed better than the Zips did a week ago, but there’s still something to be taken from Franklin’s comments. The Penn State-Pitt rivalry is back, and it’s fun.