The Fizz was split on NC State last week. Now with another toss-up of a conference game on the calendar it’s time to see what they think will happen this week.
Jonathon Hoppe (5-1): Pittsburgh 38, Syracuse 28:
At some point, we have to accept this Orange team for what it is. While I think SU is better than its current 3-3 record, the Panthers have one of the best defensive lines in the ACC. That’s all I need to know to make this pick. Syracuse’s offensive line has struggled greatly without veteran center Sam Heckel. The front five will have a much better game than it did last week, but it still won’t be enough for the Orange to pick up their first power-five win of the 2019 season.
Tim Leonard (5-1): Syracuse 27, Pittsburgh 17:
I know, I know. Syracuse has given me literally no reason to pick them or believe they are even a mediocre football team at this point. Tommy DeVito seemed to be quite hurt against N.C. State and who knows how he and the rest of the key injured players are doing. But, let’s be honest here. Sports are weird. We’ve learned to expect the unexpected, especially this year in the ACC. No one believes in Syracuse right now and the Orange just have too much talent on this roster to convince me they won’t get it all together at some point this season. I say it finally happens against Pittsburgh.
Harrison Singer (5-1): Pittsburgh 38, Syracuse 35:
Syracuse lost a tough one at NC State last Thursday, but the Orange will try and hang its head high, for a rebound chance against Pittsburgh. The Panthers enter at 4-2 (0-2) and fresh off a bye after beating Duke on the road. Like Syracuse, Pittsburgh’s offense hasn’t blown many teams away this season, but the Panthers’ defense has been rather stout. Coming in allowing under 300 total yards per game, Pitt ranks fourth in the ACC in total defense. Syracuse will have the benefit of playing at home, which will certainly help if Friday’s game is a highly-contested one. These two sides are a combined 2-2 against each other in their last four total meetings at the Loud House, and have put up the same exact amount of points in those four games as well. Considering none of those four games have had more than a 3-point margin, it wouldn’t be crazy to expect another photo finish on Friday. However, unlike the last Syracuse-Pittsburgh meeting on The Hill, where the Orange escaped with a 27-24 victory, the Panthers seem more poised to come out on-top (ever so slightly), this time around.
J.D. Raucci (4-2): Syracuse 24, Pittsburgh 21:
As it seems to always go when SU and Pitt meet up, I expect this to be another tightly contested game and unlike 2015 (that dreaded 76-61 game), I expect this thing to be a defensive battle. The Orange and the Panthers represent two of the ACC’s three worst offenses at 25.5 and 21.5 ppg respectively while also checking is as two of the conference’s eight best defenses with Pitt checking at fifth. Neither team has really been able to get anything going with any consistency on the offensive side of the ball and with two strong defenses, that should hold true once again on Friday night. At the end of the day, though, we’ve seen flashes of how when this Syracuse team finally gets into a rhythm (which has taken WAY too long in way too many games) they can put the ball in the end zone (think back to the last few drives against NC State last week before everything went haywire). Pitt hasn’t really shown that ability. I think this game probably comes down to whoever has the ball last and with SU at home in front of a big crowd on parents’ weekend, I’ll take an Andre Szmyt field goal as the slight difference.
Gill Gross (4-2): Pittsburgh 35, Syracuse 21:
Pitt’s defense might make them the second best team in the ACC behind Clemson. The Panthers have pressured quarterbacks with the best of them, with the 7th best QB sack percentage in the country. Defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman about as good as they come at the position. He’s second only to NC State’s Larell Murchison in sacks (6). If Tommy DeVito has time in the pocket it will be the upset equivalent of UMBC over Virginia. The Orange will game plan for the pressure, but it will certainly limit what the offense can do and limit DeVito’s explosiveness.
Defensively, Syracuse won’t face the same problems they did last season against Pitt, giving up more than 300 yards rushing. The Panthers new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple has the team passing on 60% of snaps. That would be good news if Andre Cisco and Iffy Melifonwu were healthy, but they most likely are not. Kenny Pickett is a good enough quarterback to burn SU’s banged up secondary, unlike Bailey Hockman last week. I can’t think of a reason Syracuse wins this.
Thomas Shults (4-2): Pittsburgh 24, Syracuse 14
So far this season we haven’t seen the high-scoring offense of Dino Babers from year’s past. Instead, it has been replaced by a turned-around offensive line and just one consistent receiver. NC State and Clemson teamed up to sack DeVito 16 times. Don’t expect those line issues to improve against Pitt defensive lineman Jaylen Twyman who already has 6 sacks this season. As a team, the Panthers are tied for the most in the ACC with Virginia at 27.
On the other side of the ball, Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett is averaging a yard under 275 per game to go along with a 60 percent completion percentage. Chunks of those yards go towards Taysir Mack, who is second in the ACC with 511 yards. To make matters worse, the Panthers defeated then-ranked No. 15 UCF earlier this season. With a solid offense and a block-shedding defense, DeVito and Syracuse have every right to be nervous entering the Dome.
Jaron May (0-0): Pittsburgh 24, Syracuse 17:
These teams are on two different tracks right now. Syracuse is falling, while Pittsburgh is on the rise. The Orange just fell to NC State and haven’t beat a Power Five opponent all year. The Panthers have won three straight and are coming off a bye week where their players got to rest and get healthy. A couple of those wins were impressive too – 15th ranked UCF and a tough Duke team. The last full drive Pitt played was an 82 yard game winning drive against Duke. So, momentum is heavily favoring the Panthers. Plus, Pittsburgh’s biggest strength attacks Syracuse’s Achilles heel. The Panthers’ defensive line has the most sacks in the ACC, while the Orange’s offensive line has allowed the most. Tommy DeVito has proven he can’t handle being pressured and that is inevitable when Pitt is on the field. The Orange are going to struggle moving the ball and keeping DeVito off the turf. There is just too much going wrong for Syracuse right now and too much going right for Pittsburgh, so give me the Panthers in this one.