Experts and computers pick the winner of The Backyard Brawl

West Virginia will take on No. 17 Pittsburgh later this evening, renewing the Backyard Brawl to kickoff the 2022 football season. EerSports has taken this opportunity to look around the industry for the experts’ thoughts on the game and who might win. Here’s what we found: 

Starting with the computers, ESPN’s Football Power Index gives the Mountaineers a 21.9% chance of winning the game. Bill Connelly’s SP+ gives the Mountaineers a similar 22% chance of winning and predicts the final score will be 36-22 in favor of Pittsburgh. ProFootballFocus’ Greenline feature doesn’t feel quite that strongly, giving WVU a 30% chance of winning the game and actually putting the Mountaineers as one of their value picks for the weekend – you need WVU to win 28.9% of the time to break even given the odds, and their model has them at a 30% chance. So, +1.1%. 

Chris Hummer and Brad Crawford here at 247Sports both pick WVU to keep it close, but neither expect the Mountaineers to win. 

Hummer (Pick: West Virginia +7): Backyard brawl, let’s go! Lot of new for both teams. New QBs, new OCs and a (re)newed rivalry. I’m a little nervous about Pittsburgh’s offense. Losing the combination of Kenny Pickett and Jordan Addison is a tremendous blow. And while I don’t have much faith about West Virginia this year – I picked the Mountaineers ninth in the Big 12 – it does have the o-line (five returning starters) to hold up against Pittsburgh. I think this will be a high-scoring game, and WVU does just enough to cover. … Pittsburgh 34, West Virginia 28.

Crawford (Pick: Pittsburgh -7): Be careful undervaluing the Panthers early this season due to Kenny Pickett and Jordan Addison no longer being part of a team that’s coming off a conference championship. Pittsburgh was 10-4 against the spread last season — fifth-best in college football — and much of that production is coming back defensively. The Panthers managed the third-most sacks in the country, by the way. The Backyard Brawl to open the season is great for fans, but I don’t think the teams are evenly-matched at the moment. I’m taking Pittsburgh to cover at home. … Pittsburgh 31, West Virginia 20.

The experts over at CBSSports are split. Five of the seven picked West Virginia to cover the 7.5-point spread, with two of those – Barrett Sallee and Jerry Palm – choosing the Mountaineers to win the game outright. 

Bill Bender over at SportingNews picks West Virginia to cover the 7-point spread, but ultimately fall to the Panthers, 29-23. 

It’s the first Backyard Brawl since 2011, and emotions should be high at Acrisure Stadium. Former USC quarterbacks Kedon Slovis and JT Daniels will be the focus, but the chess match between new offensive coordinators Frank Cignetti Jr. and Graham Harrell is even better. Who lets it loose in the opener? Four of the last five meetings have been decided by four points or less. 

Morgan Moriarty over at BleacherReport feels the same way. 

College football fans are in for a treat. The rivalry coined the “Backyard Brawl” will be renewed, as West Virginia takes on Pitt for the first time since 2011. These rivals have played 104 games since their first meeting in 1895, and the Mountaineers have won the last three meetings.

Pitt won the ACC last season and finished 11-3. The Panthers, though, have to replace two of their biggest stars in quarterback Kenny Pickett and receiver Jordan Addison, who transferred to USC. Head coach Pat Narduzzi landed quarterback Kedon Slovis from USC, so we’ll see how he fits in the new system.

West Virginia has been mediocre under head coach Neal Brown, who is 17-18 in three seasons. The Mountaineers will start Georgia transfer JT Daniels behind center.

This one might come down to which quarterback performs best. I like Slovis, who played 27 games for the Trojans over three seasons, and his experience in a tight, fun game.

Prediction: Pitt 24, West Virginia 21