Despite Syracuse’s best efforts to prove The Fizz wrong for the second straight year, all but one staff member correctly predicted a Clemson win and just one staff member predicted it would be a one possession game. How consensus are this week’s predictions?
Tyler Aki (5-0): Syracuse 48, Pitt 17
The Panthers are about to get absolutely boat raced this weekend. Pitt has already suffered a pair of losses by 30 or more, and another one is coming this week against Syracuse. The Panthers’ offense is very run-centric, which was the Orange’s Achilles heel last week against Clemson. The difference? Pitt doesn’t have the same All-American caliber linemen up front to pave the way for Qadree Ollison, who also isn’t nearly as talented as Travis Etienne. Meanwhile, Eric Dungey and the Orange offense doesn’t have to go up against a menacing defensive front this week. And just to pile on, this is a three phase sport. Syracuse owns the massive edge in both offense and defense, but the biggest gap lies on special teams. SU is the nation’s leader in special teams efficiency, a metric that takes into account how many points a unit contributes to the teams scoring margin on a per play basis while also taking into account strength of schedule and points scored in garbage time. Meanwhile Pitt sits outside the top 100. Syracuse cruises to its fifth win of the season and becomes bowl eligible.
JD Raucci (4-1): Syracuse 30, Pitt 20
Don’t let this prediction fool you, Syracuse is better than this ten-point margin of victory might indicate, but it seems like SU always plays down to Pitt’s level, especially when it has to take the trip to the Steel City. The Orange haven’t won in Pittsburgh since 2001 and I’m sure none of us forget the last time they went there and essentially played a basketball game on turf. There’s just something about going against this Pittsburgh program that produces tight games. This year that something will be Pitt’s insistency on running the football (which SU clearly struggled against last week) and dominating time of possession. The Panthers have a couple of bruisers in the backfield in Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall (both weigh in at 225 pounds) that’ll both ground and pound you to do death on their way to carrying an otherwise anemic offense and that style will lead to SU having the ball in their hands a bit less than usual. But, in the end, we all know that Dino Babers will get his in one way or another to make this the Mychale Salahuddin revenge game that the Orange faithful want to see.
Tim Leonard (4-1): Syracuse 28, Pitt 17
Man this is a big game. With a win, SU likely becomes a top 25 team with aspirations of chasing the ACC Atlantic title. Another road loss, on the other hand, would be a major setback and probably change the narrative to “will SU get to six wins to clinch a bowl game?” yet again. Ugh. Good news though: I really think Syracuse wins this game. Partially because this SU defense looks more and more legit each and every week but also because Pittsburgh is not very good at football. The Panthers have struggled to score when they’ve played tough defenses this year in Penn State and UCF (just 20 points combined against those two). Plus, they allowed 38 points to lowly UNC in a road loss there. I could see this game being sloppy, kinda like FSU, but SU will control it the entire way.
Jonathon Hoppe (5-0): Syracuse 35 – Pitt 17
The Orange hasn’t won in Pittsburgh since 2001. The reason for that? Mostly cold-weather games against a gritty Panthers team late in the season. On Saturday, SU won’t have to worry about either of those things. Eric Dungey wants his team to turn the page from the Clemson loss and that’s exactly what they’re going to do. As the season goes on, this Orange team becomes more and more impressive. Conventional SU football logic says the Orange loses this game. Things are changing, and they’re changing in a hurry. Dino Babers will have his team ready to play.
Harrison Singer (2-0): Syracuse 41, Pittsburgh 30
As we know, Syracuse battled hard against Clemson, but came short for the first time all year. The Orange played well against the Tigers, but now it will be interesting to see what this year’s team is made of. After finally getting beat, staying on the road for the second straight week is not ideal, but good teams overcome adversity. The Orange has played its way into the national spotlight thus far, which would make losing on Saturday all the more tough to swallow. Anyway, I still don’t see that happening. Syracuse should carve though Pitt’s defense, a unit that struggles mightily against the run. Defensively, the Orange will need to do better than 76 points, and I bet it will. In the end, Dino Babers should finally walk away with win number five on the season. Bring on the Panthers baby.