Orange Watch: 2020 Syracuse football game-by-game predictions, Part I

Syracuse Orange quarterback Tommy DeVito
Oct. 18, 2019; Syracuse NY, USA; Syracuse Orange quarterback Tommy DeVito (13) looks to pass during Syracuse's 27-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: With still so many unknowns surrounding the questionable decision for the ACC to forge ahead with the pandemic-plagued 2020 season, one that will feature face shield coverings for players and masks for coaches/personnel, as we head into September, we’ll remain optimistic. We present our annual forecast of the entire (11-game) regular season in schedule order. This year we look back at the last meeting against each opponent, and look ahead to this season’s game forecast. Our predictions will run in three parts, with our predictions on the first three games below.

At North Carolina-September 12

Last Time: Then-backup redshirt freshman quarterback Tommy Devito looked amazing with his throwing arm, coming off the bench to rescue SU in the fourth quarter in the Dome in 2018. Down 20-7, Devito threw two 40-yard-plus touchdown passes, then flipped the game-winning four-yard toss in the second overtime period as the Orange gutted out a thrilling 40-37 victory.

This Time: In the summer of COVID-19, both schools have had to isolate and/or quarantine students when they returned to campus in August, which subsequently altered the Tar Heels practice schedule. While in SU’s case, miscommunicating testing protocols also disrupted practice time. UNC sophomore quarterback Sam Howell was a third-team all-ACC selection last year, and figures to pick up where he left off. North Carolina 28 – Syracuse 18 (0-1).

At Pittsburgh-September 19

Last Time: Utilizing a “Pitt Special” trick play, in which quarterback Kirby Pickett, after two lateral passes, threw a 43-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, the Panthers led by 18 at halftime in the Dome before holding off a second half ‘Cuse rally to win 27-20. It was Pittsburgh’s fifth win in the last six meetings in the series.

» Related: Previewing Syracuse’s matchup with Notre Dame

This Time: Pitt just scheduled its 2020 opening game last week versus FCS foe Austin Peay, less than three weeks before the kickoff at Heinz Field. The Panthers took a hit with the loss of two defensive starters during preseason camp, but Pickett returns for his senior season. For some reason Pitt has given Dino Babers and company fits since he took over as Orange coach, including those 76 points scored in the 2016 finale. Pittsburgh 32-Syracuse 21 (0-2).

Georgia Tech-September 26

Last Time: In Syracuse’s first ACC season in 2013, Scott Shafer’s first SU team did not look prepared to compete in Atlanta being demolished 56-0. The Orange rushing defense was especially exploited giving up seven touchdowns on the ground, while the two SU quarterbacks, Terrel Hunt and Drew Allen, combined for just 133-yards in the air.

This Time: It will be the long-awaited debut of the renovated Dome, replete with a new permanent roof, a structure that will be able to support the mammoth new video scoreboard hanging from above. There’s also upgraded concession areas and rest rooms, but it’s not likely that many spectators will be able to take advantage, with a yet-to-be-announced percentage of capacity that will be allowed inside. Syracuse 30-Georgia Tech 16 (1-2).

Be sure to check in later this week as we reveal our predictions for games 4 through 7!

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.