It is never too early to take a look at the biggest impact games in the conference for 2011. I have been tasked to come up with the two games I think will have the biggest impact. My first choice should come as little surprise:
Pitt at West Virginia, Nov. 25
The Backyard Brawl becomes testier every year, and this season should be as heated as ever. You have two teams with two new coaches running similar styles of offenses, with high expectations to compete for and win a conference championship. Plus, Pitt coach Todd Graham and West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen are not exactly best friends, going back to their days in Conference USA.
Both schools had rough offseasons when it came to their coaches -- neither was the head coach when the 2010 season ended -- but the expectations have only increased as the days have crept closer to the season. Pitt returns eight starters on a defense that should be one of the best in the league, when you consider six of the starting front seven return. Ray Graham is one of the best running backs in the league. Tino Sunseri has the potential to have a 3,000-yard season in the new spread offense, and the offensive line should be pretty solid, too.
West Virginia should have one of the best offenses in the league with Geno Smith and Tavon Austin returning, and the addition of Holgorsen, of course. There is talent and depth at running back (although no starter yet), and the offensive line should be better. Only four starters return on defense, but Bruce Irvin is going to take on an expanded role as a starter, and there is potential at linebacker and in the secondary.
It goes without saying that these two teams do not like each other and will do whatever it takes to keep the other from winning a league title. Both should be at the top of the Big East standings when this game rolls around, making it one of the biggest impact conference games of the season.