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Syracuse Opponent Preview: Pittsburgh Panthers

Photo Courtesy of Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Syracuse Football’s 2020 season didn’t start too well. The 0-1 Orange had quite a few issues when they faced North Carolina last weekend. From the offensive line, to the rushing game, to the linebackers, there just weren’t too many positives. But, hey, that’s in the past so let’s look to the future.

Syracuse takes on Pittsburgh this Saturday at noon down in the Steel City. The Orange thought they were going to get a break from ranked opponents, but the Panthers jumped into the AP Poll this week at the #25 spot. Here’s everything you need to know about Pitt.

Last Week

Ummmm, so Pittsburgh beat Austin Peay so bad that the two teams quite literally decided at halftime to only play 10-minute quarters in the second. The Panthers won 55-0. Kenny Pickett threw for a touchdown and ran for one. He finished 14-of-20 with 277 yards. Seven different Panthers tallied a reception and six players rushed for double-digit yards. Defensively, Pitt got to the quarterback three times and only allowed 146 yards of total offense. It was the Panthers’ first shutout since 2014.

Three Names to Know

KENNY PICKETT, QB – For some reason there is a narrative out there that says Kenny Pickett is a middle-of-the-pack ACC quarterback. Let me tell you right now, that is just plain wrong. He might not be the flashiest guy, but Pickett is a solid QB. He is a three year starter and ranks towards the top of multiple categories in the Pitt record books. The New Jersey-native has a cannon of an arm and threw for over 3,000 yards a season ago. He is a candidate for the Davey O’Brien Award, Manning Award, and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. Pickett is a great game manager and knows how to successfully run the Pitt offense.

PARIS FORD, S – So here’s the thing about Paris Ford– he’s a great safety, don’t get me wrong, but he was named to the All-ACC Preseason list over Andre Cisco, which is a horrible take. Ford isn’t on Cisco’s level, but he is an issue for opposing quarterbacks. The redshirt junior led Pitt in tackles with 97 and interceptions with three last season. He also snagged a pick last week against Austin Peay. In 2019, Ford was named to the All-ACC First Team. Tommy DeVito is going to have to keep an eye out for No. 12 on Saturday.

PATRICK JONES II, DE – Patrick Jones II is one of the best edge rushers in college football right now. He was a preseason All-ACC selection and made the All-ACC Second Team last year. Jones tallied 43 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles a year ago. He is an absolute freak and could very easily record multiple sacks against the Orange and their horrid offensive line.

Strengths

Pittsburgh is a defense-first team. The Panthers rely heavily on their defense line, which is one of the best in the entire country. Keyshon Camp, Rashad Weaver, and Patrick Jones II are all individually some of the best talents in the ACC. So when you put them together, they are dangerously good. This obviously is going to be a major issue for Syracuse, seeing as its offensive line is somehow worse this year and is coming off a game where they allowed seven sacks.

In addition to one of the best defensive lines, Pitt has a three year starter and an extremely underrated talent under center. Kenny Pickett is fantastic (see above) and knows how to lead the Panthers’ offense. 

Weaknesses

There really aren’t any, at least for right now. Pitt put together a complete performance against Austin Peay and got contributions across the board. No positional groups faltered, they mostly impressed. Now of course, Syracuse isn’t as bad as Austin Peay (I hope), so the Orange will find some weaknesses. But right now the Panthers are solid.

Final Thought

Syracuse and Pittsburgh always play close games. Out of the last eight matchups, only two were decided by more than a touchdown. I expect this to be closer than the North Carolina game, but I would be (pleasantly) surprised if it finishes within a touchdown.

Syracuse vs. Pittsburgh | Saturday, September 19 | 12 PM | Heinz Field

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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