Saturday is the first game of what both sides believe is a ‘natural rivalry’ between WVU and Cincinnati

MORGANTOWN — The influx of new blood into the Big 12 has opened the possibility for more than a handful of firsts.

A minor first will take place this weekend when Cinncinati plays at West Virginia on Saturday (2:30 p.m./ESPN+) in the first Big 12 conference game that won’t require a multi-hour flight into, or out of, Morgantown.

That kind of proximity is rare for WVU, which was the only Big 12 team in the Eastern Time Zone before Cincinnati and UCF joined this year. Both programs are hoping the geographical closeness can lead to a natural rivalry between the two new conference mates.

“It’s obviously the closest proximity school in the Big 12 to us,” WVU coach Neal Brown said Monday. “I think this is a game that, as times goes on, has the opportunity to grow into a rivalry game.”

“I think for both programs and both fanbases, this’ll be a great game that we’ll be playing each and every year,” Cincinnati coach Scott Satterfield added.

It’s not just the proximity of the schools that can lead to a rivalry as the pair has a fair bit of history together. The duo has played 20 times on the gridiron previously, with the Mountaineers holding a 16-3-1 record against the Bearcats. 

“A former Big East foe,” Brown pointed out. “I think this is a game that should grow into a rivalry.”

WVU and Cincinnati were both members of the Big East from 2005 until its breakup in 2013. They played seven times during that span with WVU winning five times and UC twice. The teams played nine times between 2002 and 2011.

“A team that Cincinnati, in the past, has a history with and has played a lot of ball against,” Satterfield said. 

The series began in 1921 with WVU winning the first meeting 50-0. The Mountaineers were undefeated in the first 12 matchups with the only hiccup being a 7-7 tie in 1940.

“We have not done very well according to the stats against West Virginia,” Satterfield pointed out. “I do think this will be a natural rivalry as we move forward in the Big 12.”

In addition to the Universities, there is also a prior history between the team’s head coaches. Brown and Satterfield are also former conference foes, both spending time previously in the Sun Belt Conference. Brown was head coach at Troy from 2015-18 and Satterfield at Appalachian State from 2013-18.

“I know Coach Satterfield very well, we had several matchups in the Sun Belt,” Brown said. “Really good offensive mind, he’s kept his core group of coaches together for a long time.”

The Trojans and Mountaineers matched up three times while led by Brown and Satterfield with the Mountaineers holding a 2-1 advantage.

“I know Neal from their time at Troy and our time at App State,” Satterfield said. “He does an outstanding job.”

West Virginia enters Saturday’s game at 6-4 (4-3 Big 12) looking to rebound from its worst loss of the season, 59-20 at Oklahoma last week. Cincinnati meanwhile is 3-7 (1-5) and coming off its first-ever Big 12 win, 24-14 at Houston.

During the game, West Virginia will honor former hall-of-fame coach Don Nehlen as his name will be added to the Diversified Energy Terrace alongside the Mountaineers’ retired numbers. Nehlen’s first game at WVU came against the Bearcats in 1980. WVU won 41-27 in the first game played at Milan Puskar Stadium.