Pittsburgh Panthers — 2015 Syracuse Football preview

Pitt has started the season 5-1
Pittsburgh has a new head coach this season

As we countdown to kickoff in September, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each Wednesday over the summer. SU will continue its 2015 ACC schedule when they play Pittsburgh on Oct. 24.

NEW YEAR, ANOTHER NEW COACH: The revolving door at Pitt continues. Following Dave Wannstedt’s departure from the Panthers in the 2010 season, Pitt has gone through three head coaches and has had two bowl games coached by coordinators. The Paul Chryst era brought some stability to the team, with Chryst leading the program from 2012-14. But Chryst returned to Wisconsin to take over the head coaching position in December, and the program now belongs to former Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. “It’s not been pretty, it’s just tough. That’s why I came here,” Narduzzi said to USA Today. “That’s part of it. Besides all the players in the area and the surrounding areas, it’s the toughness. That’s how you build a football team, with toughness. That was one of the keys to coming here.”

» Related: Previewing SU’s  game against Virginia

WHO TO WATCH FOR: Pitt has two of the ACC’s most dynamic players in running back James Conner and wide receiver Tyler Boyd. In his sophomore season, Conner was named ACC Player of the Year, defeating reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. He was the nation’s fourth leading rusher with 1,675 yards on 277 carries. Conner, a legitimate Heisman candidate heading into this season, was also second nationally in rushing touchdowns with 24. Boyd, meanwhile, was also stellar, hauling in 78 receptions for 1,261 yards, which resulted in a first-team All-ACC selection. But Boyd’s status is uncertain following an arrest for DWI in June.

PREDICTION: The key for Pitt will revolve around quarterback Chad Voytik. He’s got plenty of weapons around him, and Voytik had a solid second half of his 2014 campaign. The junior completed 65 percent or better of his passes in the final five games of the regular season, and will only improve this year. PITTSBURGH 31, SYRACUSE 28.

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About Wes Cheng 2907 Articles
Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also been a contributing writer for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), for SportsNet New York (SNY) as a news desk writer covering all of New York professional sports, 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 with a degree in journalism. Contact him at wes[at]sujuiceonline.com.