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 ACC schedule when they play Pitt on Nov. 23.
CONTINUITY, FINALLY: Pitt head coach Paul Chryst will be returning to Pittsburgh for his second year. While that doesn’t strike most fans as extraordinary news, most fans haven’t been in Pittsburgh’s position in the last three years. It started with the firing of Dave Wannstedt in 2010 and continued with the hiring and firing of Michael Haywood, whose tenure with the University lasted less than three weeks (due to a domestic violence charge). Todd Graham took over for one season before bolting to Arizona State. Chryst took over in 2012 and steadied the Panthers in his first season, guiding them to a berth in the Compass Bowl. More importantly, by returning, Chryst has given Pittsburgh continuity.
WHO TO WATCH FOR: It was still a bizarre offseason for Chryst. Sophomore running back and second leading rusher Rushel Shell decided to transfer after spring practice. Shell first settled on UCLA before considering returning to Pitt. He then explored the option of moving to Kentucky before ultimately transferring to West Virginia. That has left Chryst with some talented, albeit unproven, options in the backfield with Isaac Bennett and Malcolm Crockett. Three-year starter Tino Sunseri has also departed, leaving fifth-year senior Tom Savage—who you may remember from his time at Rutgers and Arizona—his first shot at playing since 2009. One proven returning commodity is WR Devin Street, who notched 975 receiving yards last season.
PREDICTION: Pitt’s defense was among the best in the nation last year, finishing 17th in the NCAA. They return senior tackle Aaron Donald and nose tackle Tyrone Ezell to form one of the better defensive lines in the ACC. The experience among the defense should help offset some of the programs that the offense may face. That may allow Pitt to improve on their 6-7 season. SYRACUSE 17, PITTSBURGH 14.