Posted by Chip Patterson
A week ago, many believed that both coaches in the 103rd Backyard Brawl were entering the game with their jobs on the line. West Virginia stunned Pittsburgh at home, holding them to just one touchdown in the 35-10 victory. While coaching rumors may have swirled with Bill Stewart retirement rumors, things appear to be fine in Morgantown as the Mountaineers still have a chance to win the Big East and earn a bid to a BCS bowl game.
The Panthers, on the other hand, will have to deal with a second (or worse) place finish in the conference despite controlling their own destiny at the beginning of November. By dropping crucial late-season tilts against Connecticut and West Virginia, Pittsburgh stepped aside and allowed both teams to break through at the forefront of the Big East. It was suggested that head coach Dave Wannstedt, hired to bring Pitt "to the next level," might have a closing window of opportunity in Pittsburgh. His 41-28 record with the Panthers includes no conference titles, and only two bowl games in five seasons. But Wannstedt seems confident his job is safe for now.
"We're trying to win Saturday," Wannstedt said at his weekly news conference. "I'm not concerned with [job security], we're just trying to beat Cincinnati. Trust me. We aren't going to graduate many players, we have a great future and a lot of recruits committed and a good young team coming back, really."
Wannstedt proceeded to list the key injuries and provide further explanation for the Panthers troubles. But injury reports do not always work as appropriate excuses for unhappy fan bases. When Pittsburgh was sitting in first place, I circled this date with Cincinnati as a trap game for a team with BCS hopes. Now, it may have become a must-win for their head coach. Even if Wannstedt has the support of the administration and his staff, the fans will be calling for answers if the Panthers drop three of their last four conference games in a season that started with a No. 15 ranking in the polls.