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ESPN.com says much on the line for Pitt, Penn State

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt and Penn State fans have been looking forward to their game this season for some time now. ESPN.com recently previewed ten of this year's biggest games and, you guessed it, Pitt-Penn State cracked the list, checking in at No. 9.

What's at stake: The rivals meet for the first time since 2000, but the rancor remains, thanks in part to some superb subtweeting by both coaching staffs in recent years. But this game makes the list primarily because of what it means for Penn State's third-year coach James Franklin. The initial zest about Franklin's hiring has waned as he has yet to record a signature victory in Big Ten play. Penn State opened the 2015 season with its first loss to Temple in 74 years. While a loss to Pitt isn't as bad optically, the Lions couldn't stake much claim to the state, and Franklin's future immediately would become a hot topic. A Pitt win would continue to generate enthusiasm for Pat Narduzzi's program.

We often talk about this being a regional rivalry game, but the fact that the game will likely feature two unranked teams and still made the list shows that it's a big deal on the national radar to some degree. What's interesting in that writeup is that ESPN seems to indicate the stakes are much higher for Penn State.

Head coach James Franklin has recruited well, but Pat Narduzzi helped get the rivalry back on the map with a relatively strong recruiting class last year as well as an eight-win season. The thought from ESPN seems to indicate that the game is more important for Penn State. I get that, but I also believe it means a ton to Pitt, too. Narduzzi's season won't be defined by it but there's no doubt that he could use a win to help him on the recruiting trail and give kids another reason to believe that Pitt is on the rise.

What say you? Is the game bigger for Pitt or Penn State?

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