Judging by Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi's approach with restricting media access to his players, it's clear that he doesn't consider the Penn State game like any other. On Monday in his weekly press conference, he talked more about the rivalry with the Nittany Lions. While acknowledging that every game is in its own right a big one, there's little question that the Penn State one means a little more to him.
"Penn State game is a big game because it's an in-state rivalry game," explained Narduzzi. "It's important not only to the guys that sit in this room but the community out there, the state of Pennsylvania, to the city of Pittsburgh. It's a pride thing, and that's why it's big."
Narduzzi talked up other games like Oklahoma State and Youngstown State. And that's not even touching on the conference games, which are arguably the biggest of all. But the game against the Nittany Lions has all sorts of factors, including recruiting, the team's overall record, and just plain old pride.
And in case you weren't convinced where Narduzzi stood about the question of a rivalry from that first quote, he spoke more about it later in the presser.
"I'm not going to speak for them," Narduzzi said, regarding Penn State. "I know it's a rivalry game for us, but some people think it's a rivalry game, some people don't. It doesn't matter what they think. It just matters what we think, and if we think it is, then it is for us, and it doesn't have to be for them. It really doesn't. Everybody has different rivalries."
There's a lot to be said for that. Rivalries don't always have to be a two-way street. And, even though I think it's foolish of Penn State fans that don't consider Pitt a rival, at the end of the day, none of that matters. Pitt is clearly Penn State's biggest rival historically and, even if their side doesn't acknowledge it, it doesn't really change that fact.
Rivalry? Yes. Hatred? Narduzzi wasn't willing to take things that far.
"We're just going to play the game," he added. "We're just going to play football. There's no hate here. I know that. But I don't think there's any hate there, either."
I sort of chuckled when I heard that line and I'm doing the same now even as I think about it again. Do I buy that? I don't know. I guess there's a thin line between hatred and having a healthy dislike for a program.
My guess is that, ultimately, Narduzzi feels the way most Pitt fans do. We just really, really don't like the Nittany Lions. Do we hate them? Ask me Saturday.