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HTS 2018: Pittsburgh

Now for some real history!

Georgia Tech v Pittsburgh
Clinton Lynch - a swell guy.
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Welcome to From the Rumble Seat’s weekly historical matchup lecture. Throughout the season, each unit in this class will examine the head-to-head matchups of our opponents in the 2018 season. We don’t have to rehash what happened last week with the sort-of Southern Floridians. On to Pittsburgh and the good old northerners in the land of Heinz and hills and rivers. Tech is a combined 214-196-12 against the rest of the schedule, and has a surprisingly storied relationship with the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Pittsburgh Panthers

Opponent Background:

  • Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference (2013 - present)
  • Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • All-time Record: 717 - 527 - 42 (.574)
  • Home Stadium: Heinz Field (Capacity: 68,400)
  • FBS National Championships: 9 Claimed (1915, 1916, 1918, 1929, 1931, 1934, 1936, 1937, 1976)
  • College Football Playoff Appearances: N/A
  • New Year’s Six Bowl Games (italic - wins, bold - opponent was Tech): 12 — Rose (4 - 1927, 1929, 1932, 1936), Sugar (3 - 1955, 1976, 1981), Fiesta (4 - 1973, 1979, 1983, 2004), Cotton (1 - 1982)
  • Conference Championships: 2 — (Big East: 2004, 2010)
  • Division Championships: N/A
  • 2017 Season Record: 5 - 7 (3 - 5 ACC)

Past Results:

  • Team Head-to-Head Record: 5-7-0 (.417)
  • Recent Meetings:
    2017: 35 - 17 (Atlanta, GA)
    2016: 34 - 37 (Pittsburgh, PA)
    2015: 28 - 31 (Atlanta, GA)
    2014: 56 - 28 (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • Coach Head-to-Head Record: 1-2-0 (.333)
  • Tech record in this week’s venue: 1-1-0 (.500)

2018 Football Schedule

Date Time (if known) Opponent Conference Historical Record Venue Result Notes
Date Time (if known) Opponent Conference Historical Record Venue Result Notes
September 1 12:30 p.m. Alcorn State Southwestern Athletic 2-0-0 Bobby Dodd Stadium - Atlanta, GA 41 - 0 W FCS
September 8 12:00 p.m. @ South Florida American Athletic 0-1-0 Raymond James Stadium - Tampa, FL 38 - 49 L First Meeting, Group of Five
September 15 12:30 p.m. @ Pittsburgh Atlantic Coast 5-8-0 Heinz Field - Pittsburgh, PA 19 - 24 L
September 22 3:30 p.m. Clemson Atlantic Coast 50-31-2 Bobby Dodd Stadium - Atlanta, GA 21 - 49 L Rivalry, Hall of Fame Day
September 29 12:00 p.m. Bowling Green Mid-American 1-0-0 Bobby Dodd Stadium - Atlanta, GA 63 - 17 W First Meeting, Family Weekend, Group of Five
October 5 7:00 p.m. @ Louisville Atlantic Coast 1-0-0 Cardinal Stadium - Louisville, KY 66 - 31 W First Meeting
October 13 12:20 p.m. Duke Atlantic Coast 51-34-1 Bobby Dodd Stadium - Atlanta, GA 14 - 28 L Homecoming
October 25 7:30 p.m. @ VPISU Atlantic Coast 7-9-0 Lane Stadium - Blacksburg, VA 49 - 28 W Rivalry
November 3 12:15 p.m. @ North Carolina Atlantic Coast 30-21-3 Kenan Memorial Stadium - Chapel Hill, NC 38 - 28 W
November 10 7:00 p.m. Miami Atlantic Coast 12-12-0 Bobby Dodd Stadium - Atlanta, GA 27 - 21 W Whiteout
November 17 3:30 p.m. Virginia Atlantic Coast 21-19-1 Bobby Dodd Stadium - Atlanta, GA 30 - 27 W (OT) Senior Day
November 24 12:00 p.m. @ u[sic]ga Southeastern 44-67-5 Sanford Stadium - Athens, GA 45 - 21 L Rivalry
December 26 5:15 p.m. vs. Minnesota Big Ten 0-0-0 Ford Field - Detroit, MI - First Meeting

Finally, a Team with History:

When Pittsburgh came into the conference in 2013 with their fellow Big East refugees, the Syracuse Orange, it was somewhat of an interesting move away from a lot of the Panthers’ historical rivals and their center of gravity. Sure, playing the likes of North Carolina and Duke every year was a different story than the Backyard Brawl. However, the story of Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech may not be the longest, and it may not be the most in depth, but it is most definitely one peppered with some notable historical moments significant to both teams.

Pittsburgh football began in 1889 under the auspices of two students. The Western University of Pennsylvania, as it was known then, played its first game against a local high school called the Shady Side Academy, which still exists today. Like many schools that started playing football in the waning days of the Gilded Age before rising to prominence as the sport grew, Pittsburgh was most unremarkable in those early years. Even their 10-0 1904 season didn’t so much as bat an eye from the sport’s Ivy League focus, though Michigan and Chicago were increasingly turning heads farther west. Pittsburgh’s first zenith came at the same time as the climax of a certain leading edge Southern institution’s coaching czar. By that time, though, sportswriters were all too eager to pick the Panthers as national champion. When John Heisman challenged Pop Warner to a winner-take-all bout for the title, he was rebuffed. Pitt won their first national title in 1915 and their second in 1916 while the undefeated Yellow Jackets suffered the same fate as the Panthers did in 1904. While Tech got the last laugh in 1917, the two schools squared off to decide it all in 1918. With Tech having lost much of its best and brightest to the war effort, the Panthers proved the better team. Now they have that third national championship to back it up. The two teams played twice more before the rambunctious Southerners were cut off in a schedule reshuffling in 1921. The two wouldn’t see the same gridiron again for more than thirty years, with Tech taking another championship in the interim while Pittsburgh garnered five of their own. The 1956 Sugar Bowl was rife with controversy - the idea of the Tech men playing an integrated team didn’t sit well with certain Georgians, including the governor. Overwhelming opinion at Tech favored playing the game and supported coach Bobby Dodd’s squad to play the game. Tech became the first institution of higher education in the south to peacefully integrate a few short years later, and also won the game, their first against Pittsburgh. Tech got another win within the calendar year in the Gator Bowl. Tech took two more losses to Pittsburgh in the 1970s, including one in the year of the Panthers’ most recent championship, 1976. Fast forward another three and a half decades and the two schools found themselves conference mates.

As far as Tech football history goes, From the Rumble Seat has been taking a biweekly look at football history since the beginning of the summer over at Rearview Mirror. And it hasn’t changed much since last week. The short version is that Tech football began ignominiously with a middling season in 1892. A game up in Athens in 1893, which Tech won, set the stage for one of the fiercest rivalries in the sport and also is one of the mythic origins of the Ramblin’ Wreck nickname, as well as how Tech got its colors. Tech was pitiful, to put it nicely, for quite some time until one man, Frank Turner, started an initiative to hire a bonafide legend as a football coach. That resulted in John Heisman. Heisman, innovator and champion, saw much success on the Flats until he dramatically left town as part of his divorce. The old man was replaced by William Alexander, who was known for his team’s strong academics and his own 1928 national championship. Coach Alex was, in turn, replaced by his own protege Bobby Dodd. By the end of Dodd’s tenure, Tech had amassed three national championships, twelve conference championships, including five in the Southeastern Conference, which just mean more, and had decided to go independent to make a stand not only for its football prominence, but its foundational academic principles as well. Dodd and Tech would not sacrifice student-athlete education and well-being. The independent years were lean for Tech and did not result in the dream of a “Notre Dame of the South” status. Eventually, Tech joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in the beginning of the 1980s. By the end of the decade, coach Bobby Ross brought the Jackets seemingly from nowhere to win a national championship, Tech’s fourth. Since then, the Jackets have seen average-to-great years, the most recent excellent year being 2014, when Tech was a few plays from the inaugural College Football Playoff. The Jackets have an all-time record of 724-491-43.

Since Pittsburgh’s coach Pat Narduzzi before the 2015 season, the Panthers hold a 2-1 edge in the series, though Paul Johnson’s Jackets took the inaugural two matchups of between the now-division mates. The first two games of the series were diverse enough - one went to overtime and saw a kick returned for a touchdown by the Jackets - yet both ended in the same disappointing fashion: Chris Blewitt socking the football through the uprights at the last possible second. The game last year, however, was far better for Tech. Though the lead-up to the game was rife with non-subtle attacks at Tech’s purported chop blocking, the offense managed to pull away by several scores on the way to dispatching Pittsburgh. Despite four offensive turnovers, Tech still managed to pull out a solid win, which, to paraphrase Johnson, wouldn’t have happened if the Panthers were any good. Now all that’s left is to see if that holds up with the latest addition to this interesting and layered series of contests.

This Saturday, the Jackets face off against the Panthers (5-7-0 all time) in week three at Heinz Field at 12:30 pm. The game will be aired on the Regional Sports Networks (Fox Sports South in Atlanta) and can be heard over the radio in the usual suspects, 680 AM / 93.7 FM.

With the appearance of the historical matchup preview, that means it’s after Friday at 10:00 AM and that concludes From the Rumble Seat’s regularly scheduled pregame content. Tune in tomorrow starting at 6:00 AM for How to Watch continuing through the gameday thread and the postgame recap. Less than 36 hours until toe meets leather! As always, go Jackets!