The Fizz Staff finally had some parity last week in its picks, which resulted in a 5-2 record for the week after Syracuse’s loss to NC State. The Orange enters this week’s matchup as the favorite, however, not all of our staff is in agreement.
Nate Dickinson (4-1): Syracuse 35 Pitt 23
Logan Grossman (4-1): Pitt 38 Syracuse 35
Who could forget the game that these two teams played last year? It was the highest scoring game in FBS history. Expect plenty of points but don’t expect anything quite like that. The Orange have given fans reason for optimism the past two games and the Panthers are coming off of a blowout home win against Rice but haven’t been overly impressive this season. With that said, the Orange have been making too many mistakes, even in the games where they have exceeded expectations. Expect this one to be close, but Pitt is just the more well polished team and they will escape the Dome with a conference win.
Tyler Aki (3-2): Syracuse 37 Pitt 20
The Panthers are atrocious in the pass defense. This should open up the game for Eric Dungey and company to have a huge day. While I don’t expect Erv Philips to haul in 17 passes again, I think the Orange will use him down the field from the slot again and get double digit receptions. While I think Syracuse wins comfortably, SU can really blow this game open if it can establish a third receiver. Defensively, the Orange could inch closer to full strength with the potential return of Kendall Coleman and Josh Black on the defensive line. SU has struggled to pressure quarterbacks and stop the run, so if Coleman and Black get the go in this game, they could really help shut down a Pitt rushing attack that has struggled as of late, but has breakout potential. However, if they aren’t healthy enough to play, Pitt can hang around in this one.
Drew Carter (4-1): Syracuse 27 Pitt 21
This ACC battle — for my money, the biggest toss-up on Syracuse’s schedule — will be decided by one player: Pittsburgh quarterback Max Browne. The transfer from USC (who beat out Sam Darnold for the starting gig before last season) may have turned a corner last week against Rice: 28-for-32, 410 yards, four touchdowns, no turnovers. But the Owls aren’t exactly the ’85 Bears, and that was somehow Browne’s first career 200-yard game. In his 19th appearance! It’s hard not to root for the 6-foot-5 redshirt senior, who seems like a genuine, down-to-earth guy whose college career has been defined by disappointment after arriving at USC as the No. 1 pro-style passer in the Class of 2013, a crop that included Jared Goff and Christian Hackenberg. That being said, I think we all know the truth: Browne is not a good college quarterback. He’ll struggle to find his electric weapons (the Panthers may boast the fastest receiving corps in the ACC, and that’s not an exaggeration), and, despite a few big plays from the Pitt wideouts, the Orange’s defense will give Eric Dungey and company a golden opportunity to pick up the team’s first ACC win.
David Edelstein (4-1): 32 Syracuse Pitt 28
Neither of these teams has been excellent recently. It’s kind of a split decision in a way. Each game between the Orange and the Panthers over the past decade and a half has arguably been a close one. You have to go back to 2012 to find a Syracuse win over Pitt, and it was only by one point. The time before that that SU got the victory came in double overtime in 2004. You have to go back to 2001 to find a solid Syracuse win (42-10 W on October 13, 2001). BUT, this year, Syracuse has played better against ranked opponents than Pitt has. Syracuse came within nine points (but essentially just two points) of then No. 25 LSU and within eight of now No. 23 NC State. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh lost by 19 to No. 4 Penn State and 38 to No. 9 Oklahoma State. In the end, the Orange with outrun the Panthers this time.
JD Raucci (4-1): Syracuse 33 Pitt 17
This game will not be as high scoring as last year’s basketball-like affair. It will, however, have a very similar margin of victory, but in the opposite direction. This one comes down to the simple fact that Pitt is very mediocre on both sides of the ball. Erv Philips is coming off a massive performance versus NC State which will open up the field for the rest of the offense and help Eric Dungey and company expose the Panthers. As for the SU defense, I don’t foresee them having any problem with Pitt QB Max Browne. His 400+ yard performance last week came against Rice, a team you wouldn’t exactly call a defensive powerhouse and his four games before that were simply abysmal. He’s a slightly below average quarterback at best and I expect this SU defense to continue to step up and limit the Pitt attack enough to allow SU to beat the Panthers for the first time since 2012.
Tim Leonard (3-2): Syracuse 37 Pitt 27
This game is not going to be the shootout we saw at Heinz Field last year. Pittsburgh’s offense doesn’t have nearly as much talent. NFL rookies Nathan Peterman and James Conner are not walking through that door. Instead the Panthers backfield consists of a rushing attack slightly better than Syracuse (which is not saying much) and Max Browne, an inconsistent signal-caller who was on the verge of losing his job until a friendly matchup with Rice last week. Syracuse, on the other hand, has an improved defense and the luxury of a healthy Eric Dungey this year. Behind the junior quarterback, the Orange will draw first blood and hold a slim lead going into the fourth for the first time in three weeks. From there, SU’s front seven will overpower a shaky Pitt O line and a pressured Max Browne won’t make enough throws in crunch time to bring the Panthers back in it.
Jonathon Hoppe (0-0): Syracuse 45 Pitts 43
While it’s been just three weeks since Syracuse picked up its last win, it feels like it’s been three months. Dino Babers isn’t in the business of moral victories, he’s in the business of winning football games. This is a great opportunity for Syracuse to pick up its first conference victory of the season. If not now, then when? Ultimately, I think this game comes down to quarterback play. The two rosters are similar in terms of skill level, but SU has a big advantage when it comes to the signal-callers. Max Browne, a grad-transfer from USC, has been inconsistent for the Panthers. He’s thrown for 836 yards on the year, but 410 of them came last week against a one-win Rice team. If Eric Dungey has a good day for Syracuse, it should be enough to get the Orange its third win of the year. However, if SU gets off to another slow start, don’t be surprised if Pitt sends the Orange to 2-4 on the season. Syracuse can’t afford to lost this game and I don’t think it does. After losing by single digits in each of its past two games, the Orange comes home and knocks off a team it’s favored to beat.