Syracuse will try to recover from an opening week loss to UNC when they travel to play Pittsburgh (12:00 p.m. ET / ACC Regional Networks) on Saturday. Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Brad Bierman and Wes Cheng give their predictions below.
The Pittsburgh game is not only important for the obvious reason of securing a first win in this shortened and unpredictable season, on the road no less, where SU is 4-13 in the ACC under Dino Babers, it’s also a longtime rivalry game with 75 meetings, and it’s been all Pitt lately winning five of the six last meetings
Panthers trick plays have also figured in that streak; in 2015 a 4th down fake punt pass play fooled the Orange defense and set up the game winning field goal, and last season on a double reverse pass play for a first quarter touchdown proved to be the margin of difference in the 27-20 final score.
This year the Panthers enjoyed what Syracuse did not have in its opener, a true tune-up game blitzing FCS member Austin Peay 55-0 in mismatch hat featured 10-minute quarters in the second half, while SU had offensive breakdowns and only two field goals while a steady defense became worn down in the 4th quarter at North Carolina.
Pitt has a solid offense led by senior quarterback Kevin Pickett who threw the trick pass touchdown last season, and it opened things up against the overmatched Governors last week, providing ‘Cuse defensive coordinator Tony White a busy week of game-planning.
The Panthers defense is expected to have two defensive line starters back after sitting out the opener due to COVID-19 protocols, making the challenge even loftier for The Orange’s much maligned offensive line.
Syracuse will look to make a comeback in the fourth quarter, but Pitt will out-offense Syracuse winning 32-21.
Season Record 1-0
The ACC is playing football in an unusual time with no fans in the stands, and some players opting out for health reasons.
Syracuse and Pitt are not exceptions to the rule. For the Orange, running backs Abdul Adams and Jarveon Howard are not playing this season. For the Panthers, they lost preseason All-American defensive lineman Jaylen Twyman, coming off a season where he notched 10.5 sacks.
For the most part, Twyman wasn’t missed in a 55-0 rout of FCS opponent Austin Peay. The convincing victory helped loft the Panthers into the top 25 at No. 25, meaning that the Orange will play two ranked teams on the road to start the season.
Pittsburgh has dominated SU since the two teams joined the ACC. The Panthers have won six out of seven matchups, and now own a 40-31-3 all-time record against Syracuse.
Defensively, Pitt boasts one of the best defensive lines in the conference, even without Twyman, and its offense is more diversified under quarterback Kenny Pickett. The senior signal caller spread the ball among 10 different receivers in the opener, and ultimately finished with 277 passing yards.
And he’ll get the benefit of throwing to seniors Taysir Mack and Lucas Krull against the Orange. Both were absent in week 1.
As for the game prediction, with a flagging offense that mustered only six points against North Carolina in the opener, it’s easy to see why some sportsbooks have Syracuse down as much as a three-touchdown underdog against Pittsburgh. In fact, the Panthers are getting as many as 22 points, so it may be worth it to look over some of the best available sports gambling sites to get your best value on the spread. But for me it won’t matter: I expect Syracuse to play competitively with its new 3-3-5 defense midway into the second half before Pitt ultimately runs away with a 35-10 victory.