ESPN is hosting their College GameDay program at Acrisure Stadium before the Backyard Brawl Thursday night at 7 p.m., pitting rivals Pitt and West Virginia against each other to start the 2022 season.
This is the first time since 2005 that the College GameDay crew is coming to Pittsburgh, when Notre Dame defeated Pitt 42-21. The crew of Rece Davis, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and David Pollack will host a one hour exclusive show inside the stadium.
Davis and Howard spoke earlier to members of the press about the Backyard Brawl, players they’re excited to see, coaching and more.
Davis spoke on how excited he is to see the rivalry return and that college football is built on rivalries, like the Backyard Brawl, that have deep, historical roots.
“It’s nice when the two sides at the core, at the essence of their programs, hate every wretched breath the other one sucks into their greedy lungs,” Davis said. “That makes it fun. I think rivalries are important. In a time in this sport when everything is shifting and some of the old traditions and foundational gains and rivalries are in jeopardy, or crumbling or being reconfigured, it’s nice to have one return.”
Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi named senior quarterback Kedon Slovis as starter for the game against WVU. Slovis arrived from USC as a transfer, and beat out redshirt senior quarterback Nick Patti for that starting position. Now, he finds himself in one of the biggest games of his life and a chance to show what he can do on a national stage.
Davis said that as long as Slovis stays healthy and puts up solid numbers tonight and throughout the 2022 season, then he should improve his draft stock drastically.
“If he can put up numbers and put up enough offense, to back up what should be a really, really good Pitt defense, then I think he can elevate himself in terms of draft stock,” Davis said. “He probably already elevated his status in the “Hail to Pitt” crowd with the comments towards West Virginia, which I found wildly amusing and entertaining.”
While the battle between Slovis and WVU junior quarterback JT Daniels, who transferred from Georgia this year, is dominating the headlines, Davis said that there are a few Pitt players that could star tonight and in the future.
“Haba[kkuk] Baldanado is a terrific player who has a great opportunity to elevate his profile with casual fans,” Davis said. “But I really want to see Konata Mumpfield for obvious reasons. With Jordan Addison transferring out, they have a guy from Akron who has proven himself and apparently has been really impressive here in practice, so I want to see those guys go.”
Howard is high on Pitt coming into this season. His prediction that Pitt will make the College Football Playoff went viral last weekend. Howard said that he respects the Pitt program and how Narduzzi leads it, which led him to making the bold statement.
“I always respected Narduzzi his program,” Howard said. “I thought his kids bring this tough mentality. They’re physical, it’s kind of like a little old school, at the line of scrimmage in the trenches. So I always respected that. I know they have a monster defensive front, which should give teams problems, which should give teams fits. So I think they may have the makeup to potentially win another ACC Championship and then if you win the conference championship, I think that you have a good chance of making it to the College Football Playoff.”
While Howard doesn’t have much experience with the Backyard Brawl itself, he knows how important rivalry games are, especially when he played as a wide receiver at Michigan against Ohio State. He’s seen the WVU fans and Pitt fans excitement level and he said he can see how much this game means to Pitt and West Virginia fans.
“When you coin the phrase ‘Backyard Brawl’ and that’s the moniker for your rivalry, it says it all,” Howard said. “It’s going to be a sold out stadium tonight. I’m excited and I’m really looking forward to see this game take place. ”