Syracuse football and Pittsburgh football are similarly ranked at the moment. Neither has been great recently, yet there are positives in each team as well. Here’s each team’s key to winning on Saturday.
Panthers Key to the Game: Crack the Syracuse Defensive Line on the Ground
If Pittsburgh is to win this football game in the Carrier Dome on Saturday, the Panthers are going to have to find a way to run the ball. Right now, Pittsburgh’s rushing game is lacking. The Panther’s ground game currently ranks 108th out of 129 FBS teams with just over 114 yards per game this season. Pitt has scored a solid seven touchdowns on the ground this year, though, making the rushers a legitimate threat to pound the turf when the Panthers are in the red zone, where they have scored a total 13 times on 17 chances (11 touchdowns). This along with the sudden presence of Pitt tailback Qadree Ollison who showed up last week in the Panthers’ 42-10 win over Rice with a touchdown and could be receiving more carries against Syracuse. But if Pitt wants this success on the ground, the Panthers will have to pierce the SU front seven, which has not been an easy task for any team this year. The Orange defensive line has just been a wall. But with a sturdy passing game, if Pittsburgh can capitalize when running the ball, the Panthers should have success and take the game.
Orange Key to the Game: Fortify the Offensive Line
I am going to say the same thing I have been saying for a few weeks now: if Syracuse wants to win the game, SU absolutely has to fortify its offensive line. While the Orange defensive line has been stellar, the Orange offensive line completely deteriorates on nearly every play. Eric Dungey is a great quarterback, but he cannot do his job if he has no protection. Dungey has been pretty solid for SU so far in 2017: his 1437 passing yards rank him 12th of 131 FBS quarterbacks this season. If the offensive line starts giving him the time he needs, just imagine how good he can be. Instead, however, Dungey has been forced to scramble and rush the ball consistently, making him SU’s top rusher with 277 yards and 7 touchdowns on 68 carries. He’s averaging over 55 yards per game, while Donate Strickland is in second place with only 28 yards per game! Dungey is also getting sacked out of his mind with Syracuse averaging 2.4 sacks per game. If the offensive line affords Dungey enough protection for him to do his job, Syracuse takes the game.
Follow @OrangeFizz on Twitter during the game for live updates.
Published: David Edelstein