MORGANTOWN-Just how much does winning the annual "Backyard Brawl" mean to the players from Big East rivals West Virginia (6-3, 3-2 Big East) and Pittsburgh (5-4, 4-1 Big East)?
Just ask the Mountaineers' Scooter Berry.
"It means everything to me," explained WVU's senior defensive lineman. "I'm pretty sure you guys know that because I did cry on national TV last year (after WVU's win).
West Virginia running back Noel Devine breaks through a tackle by Louisville linebacker Dexter Heyman to score a touchdown.
"It feels good to play in this rivalry, and I'm looking forward to Friday. I hope everyone else is, too."
Last year, No. 19 WVU pulled out a 19-16 win over theNo. 8 Panthers on a 43-yard Tyler Bitancurt field goal as time expired, a victory that propelled the old gold and blue into a Gator Bowl showdown with former head coach Bobby Bowden and his Florida State Seminoles.
The stakes are much higher when the two programs-separated by less than 80 miles-meet at high noon at Heinz Field in the 103rd "Backyard Brawl".
"We still have a chance to go in there and be No. 1 in the Big East," sophomore receiver Tavon Austin explained. "We're just going to go in there and play a good game, and hopefully we can come out as winners."
Something that didn't happen the last time the two teams met on the home surface of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers, in 2008.
Led by standout rusher LeSean McCoy's two fourth-quarter touchdowns the Panthers overcame a 15-7 deficit to pull out a 19-15 victory.
Both teams are coming off 17-10 victories last Saturday. WVU got touchdown runs of 2-yards each from Noel Devine and Ryan Clarke and a 43-yard field goal from Bitancurt to capture its second Big East win in a row while Pitt stormed past South Florida behind the play of quarterback Tito Sunseri and running back Ray Graham.
The winner will, in all likelihood, be the odds-on favorite to capture the conference title-which has been held by Cincinnati the past two years-and earn the Big East's automatic berth in the Bowl Championship Series.
A loss and West Virginia fans could find themselves heading to Charlotte, N.C., to watch their Mountaineers play in the Meineke Car Care Bowl for the second time under head coach Bill Stewart.
With both teams possessing dominating defenses and offenses that, at times, have struggled to maintain any consistency, the difference in the game could very well come down to two ingredients-the playing surface and turnovers.
"I did not talk about it (the field conditions at Heinz Field)," explained Stewart. "I don't talk about it. Oakland (Raiders) talked about it. That's what I told the team. I'll look at it."
Making matters worse is the expected rainy weather that was to hit prior to the noon kickoff and temperatures which were reported to hit no higher than the high 30s or low 40s.
As far as the turnover battle is concerned, Stewart already has watched his Mountaineers drop a pair of decisions to Syracuse (19-14) and Connecticut (16-13 OT) because of turnovers.
"They'll be pivotal," said the coach. "In my opinion, the turnover battle will decide the game."