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Backyard Brawl is starting to heat up early

Jerry DiPaola
| Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011

NEWPORT, R.I. — When West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin was asked about the fast-paced, no-huddle offenses he will face this season in games against Cincinnati and Pitt, he acknowledged the Bearcats.

"I guess Cincinnati (will be a challenge)," he said Tuesday during Big East Media Day. "But the other team you mentioned, I won't worry about them."

And the Backyard Brawl starts to heat up — nearly four months before the game.

Is there hate between the teams?

"Pretty much," Irvin said. "You aren't supposed to hate anybody, but I think that's as close to hate you can get, that rivalry. We don't speak to them, and they don't speak to us."

The players were in the same room Monday night during the clambake, and Tuesday at a news conference, they were seated in opposite corners of the room. Pitt's Myles Caragein, Jared Holley, Brandon Lindsey and Mike Shanahan and West Virginia's Irvin, Keith Tandy and Geno Smith never attempted to cross paths.

Caragein, a senior nose tackle, said he and his teammates are trying not to get drawn into a war of words, although he admits to looking the other way when he sees a West Virginia player.

"We have been pretty good about it," he said. "We are trying not to be jerks or arrogant. We respect them. We are not trying to degrade them in any way. We will try to be nice about it."

When told of Irvin's comments, Caragein smiled and said, "That's fine. They can think that all they want, but what matters is what is going to happen on the field."

WVU, Pitt picked 1-2

West Virginia, which has won its past two games against Pitt, was picked No. 1 in the Big East preseason media poll.

After sharing the conference title with Pitt and Connecticut last season, the Mountaineers received 21 of 24 first-place votes, for a total of 188 points. Pitt received two (162).

Graciously, Irvin wasn't gloating over West Virginia's advantage over Pitt.

"I don't think we have an advantage because we won the last two years," Irvin said. "We just made more plays than they did."

"It's fine," Caragein said of the poll. "You don't get a trophy or a ring for it. I would rather be under the radar."

Additional Information:

Big East preseason poll

Big East preseason poll as voted upon by 24 media members • three from each Big East team coverage area (first-place votes in parentheses):

Team • Points

1. WVU (21) • 188

2. Pitt (2) • 162

3. S. Florida (1) • 151

4. Syracuse • 98

5. Cincinnati • 96

6. Connecticut • 76

7. Louisville • 60

8. Rutgers • 33

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