Pittsburgh Panthers — 2014 Syracuse Football preview

As we countdown to kickoff in August, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each Tuesday over the summer. SU will continue its 2014 ACC conference schedule when they play Pitt on Nov. 22.

STABILITY IN PENNSYLVANIA: After a turbulent few years in the coaching department, Pittsburgh has finally found some stability. Following the dismissal of Dave Wannstedt in 2010, the Panthers cycled through three coaches before finally landing Paul Chryst, now in his third season at Pitt. The calm has proven to be exactly what it needed, as Chryst has put together an impressive sophomore class that has the potential to lead Pitt to the upper echelon of the ACC. Only 17 players on the Panthers’ roster were holdovers from past eras, and already, nine sophomores could end up starting this season. How quickly Pitt rises is directly tied into how quickly those sophomores develop, and how quickly Pitt can make up for the loss of Aaron Donald (who won just about every collegiate defensive award under the sun last year).

pitt

Pitt won the Little Caesars Bowl last season

» Related: Previewing Syracuse’s matchup against NC State

WHO TO WATCH FOR: One sophomore in particular may hold Pitt’s fate more than anyone else. Dual-threat quarterback Chad Voytik takes over for Tom Savage, but he has thrown exactly 11 passes at the collegiate level. But Voytik impressed in that limited sample size, completing 5 of 9 passes for 62 yards, and rushing two times for 24 yards and a touchdown in relief of Savage in a 30-27 win over Bowling Green in the Little Ceasars Bowl. He’ll be throwing to fellow sophomore Tyler Boyd, who hauled in 85 receptions for 1,174 yards and seven touchdowns. Lining up in the back field will be (you guessed it) sophomore James Conner, who finished his rookie season with 799 yards and eight touchdowns, including 229 yards and a score in the bowl win.

PREDICTION: Take a quick look at Pitt’s schedule, and you can see a possible route to a 10 win season and a shot at the Coastal Division title. The Panthers avoid ACC crossover games with royalty Clemson and FSU, and have cupcake non-conference games against Delaware, FIU and Akron. While they have a tough three game stretch against Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Duke, those games are all at home. Again, how realistic that is depends on how quickly those sophomores can develop. Either way, Pitt seems poised for a great 2015, but let’s not look that far ahead. SYRACUSE 24, PITT 28.

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Wes Cheng

About Wes Cheng

Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.
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