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Syracuse vs. Pittsburgh Prediction,
and Odds - 9-19-2020

Game Snapshot with Current Line

#119 Syracuse University
#120 University of Pittsburgh

Saturday, September 19, 2020 at 12:00pm

Image licensed from USA Today Sports

The Syracuse Orange will look for improvement in Week 3 when they travel to Pittsburgh for the Panthers' ACC opener. This is Syracuse's (0-1) second straight road game as the Orange is coming off a 31-6 loss at then-#18 North Carolina where they trailed just by four points after three quarters. Meanwhile, #25 Pitt (1-0) entered the national rankings, for the first time since November 2018, following its Week 1 beat down of FCS opponent Austin Peay 55-0.

Pitt defeated Syracuse 27-20 last year at the Carrier Dome for its second straight victory in the series and six of seven since both teams moved to the ACC. Overall, the Panthers have now won 15 of 18 against the Orange and leads the all-time series 40-32-3 which dates back to 1916. The teams have played every year since 1955. The Panthers are also 23-11 in the series at home (8-1 at Heinz Field).

Syracuse Offensive Line Needs To Pass Protect Better

Syracuse will look for a better offensive effort after suffering a 31-6 setback at No. 18 North Carolina in its 2020 ACC Opener as the Orange were outscored 21-0 in the fourth quarter. Syracuse was competitive most of the contest as they trailed UNC just 7-3 at halftime and 10-6 after three-quarters of play despite managing only 202 yards of total offense. Returning starting quarterback Tommy DeVito struggled mightily as he was consistently under pressure, managing to complete just 41.9% (13-31) of his pass for 112 yards. The junior also ran for a team-high 30 yards on 16 attempts. Devito was sacked seven times and hurried nine other times. The Orange offensive line allowed 30 sacks all of last season.

"A lot of times we shot our own selves in the foot," Syracuse coach Dino Babers said. "We knew we had to really do things right to win down there in that situation, but I thought for three quarters it was a heck of a football game."

The Orange, who ranked 71st in the nation with 154 yards per game on the ground last season, was held to 68 total yards on the ground as the Tar Heels dominated the line of scrimmage. While SU did lose leading rusher Moe Neal, they do have considerable depth at the position. Redshirt freshman Jawhar Jordan carried the ball 14 times, which is one fewer attempt than his entire total from a year ago, for 26 yards against UNC. Seldom used junior Markenzy Pierre (5 carries for 12 yards) was the only other back to receive a carry. Meanwhile, six different players caught a pass versus North Carolina. Taj Harris, who was second on the team in receptions a year ago (37), led the way with five catches for 64 yards. Sophomore Anthony Queeley hauled in four passes for 37 yards in his D-I debut while Jordan caught three passes for 17 yards.

Syracuse's new-look defense under defensive coordinator Tony White fared well against UNC before getting worn down in the fourth quarter. The Orange allowed 463 total yards of offense to UNC with 303 yards coming through the air as the Tar Heels' quarterbacks completed 66.9% of their passes. SU's defense did force three turnovers (two interceptions) as well as recorded two sacks. Freshman defensive backs Garrett Williams (nine tackles, one pass defended) and Neil Nunn were solid as was junior defensive back Ifeatu Melifonwu (five tackles, 2 passes defended). LB Geoff Cantin-Arku added eight tackles while Mikel Jones contributed six tackles and an interception and Andre Sisco also picked off a pass, marking the fourth straight game he has recorded an interception and the 13th of his career.

Senior defensive linemen Kingsley Jonathan and Josh Black each registered a sack.

Pitt Looks To Begin Season 2-0 For First Time Since 2016

Expectations are relatively high for the Pittsburgh Panthers who look to produce its third straight winning campaign. Pitt got off to a rousing start to the year with a 55-0 shutout of Austin Peay,which plays out of the OVC --members of the FCS -- in its season-opener. The shutout was the clubs' first since 2014. To say that Panther coach Pat Narduzzi was happy with the team's initial performance is kind of an understatement as he said his team was "pretty perfect".

Pitt, which was without seven players -- including two starters -- as a result of COVID-19 protocols, took a 42 point lead and the teams agreed to play a shortened second half. All totaled, 70 players got into the contest for the Panthers who were also without starting tight end Lucas Krull and Taysir Mack. As a result of the win, Pitt moved into the Top-25 for the first time in nearly two years.

"I don't really care about it," Narduzzi told reporters. "Doesn't matter. I don't want our kids to look at it. I'd rather be disrespected, play with a grudge and chip on our shoulder. We know what kind of football team we have in here. It doesn't matter what people think on the outside. It's what we do on the field.

"With less conferences out there, it doesn't matter. Less people playing, matters less this year than a year ago. Our job is to go out and win football games on Saturdays."

Pitt's defense got things going in the early last Saturday as junior defensive back Paris Ford thwarted Austin Peay's opening drive by picking off quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall. Ford's interception set up the Panthers' offense at their own 41-yard line and 10 plays later Pitt scored the first of its six consecutive touchdowns. For the game, the Panthers outgained the Governors 456-to-137 in total yards. Quarterback Kenny Pickett led the attack with 277 passing yards and one touchdown as he completed 70% (14-of-20) of his passes. Freshman Jordan Addison was Pickett's target of choice as he led the team with seven receptions for 35 yards. However, DJ Turner (2 receptions for 68 yards), Jaylon Barden, and Shocky Jacques-Louis truncated Addison in receiving yards in one play as Turner scored on a 51-yard touchdown and Jacques-Louis along with Barden had a 68-yard reception.

Pitt's five-headed running attack was also productive as the Panthers racked up 147 yards on 35 carries. Sophomore running back Vincent Davis led the way with 43 yards along with two touchdowns on 11 carries. Israel Abanikanda (5-for-26 yards, 1 TD), AJ Davis (5-for-24 yards), Pickett (2-for-23 yards, 1 TD), and Daniel Carter (4-for-18 yards, 1 TD) were among eight other players to receive a carry.

Defensively, Pitt was also excellent allowing Austin Peay just one rushing yard on 22 carries. The Panthers finished the game with three sacks, eight tackles for losses, and forced three turnovers. Senior defensive lineman Patrick Jones had five tackles and one-half sacks. Freshman Dayon Hayes picked up a pair of sacks while also forcing a fumble. Meanwhile, Erick Hallett had the Panthers other interception.

Pitt has not begun a season 2-0 since 2016 and is just 3-4 in ACC openers.

The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.

Full-Game Side Bet

I am going with Pitt despite the huge point spread as the Panthers are much more talented on the offensive side of the ball than the Orange. And while SU's defense showed some promise early against UNC, I expect that Pitt will also be able to wear the Orange down upfront due to the Panthers' physicality upfront. I also believe Pitt's offense is much improved from last year and has too many playmakers for the Orange. The Panthers, who have plenty of playmakers,  had four passing plays of at least 20 yards and three plays of at least 50 yards against Austin Peay. They also had four runs of 10 or more yards. Syracuse, which gave up several big plays in the loss to UNC with the Tar Heels compiling 8.7 yards per play, surrendered 10 plays of 10 yards or longer last season to Pitt last season.

Pitt rushed for 145 yards last year and totaled 377 offensive yards against the Orange in their 27-20 victory with senior AJ Davis rushing for 103 yards along with a touchdown on 16 carries. Plus, Pickett -- who needs just 147 passing yards to become the seventh player to hit 6,000 yards -- has been very good against SU over his career completing 55.6% of his passes for 382 yards along with three touchdowns and one interception. I also expect the Panthers' to control the line of scrimmage and they are expected to have starting defensive lineman Keyshon Camp, who was one of the seven players that didn't attend the Austin Peay came due to COVID-19, as he is not listed on the team's injury. Neither is defensive end Habakkuk Baldonado, who left the Governors' game with an undisclosed injury late in the first quarter and did not return. However, three starters -- DL Rashad Weaver, WR Taysir Mack, and TE Luca Krull - - are listed as questionable.


Prediction: Pitt - 21.5

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Full-Game Total Pick

I am going with the under. I don't believe that this affair will turn out to be a barn burner and while I see a semi-blowout, I don't think Syracuse has enough firepower to counter the Panthers' offensive ability. Plus, I don't think that the Panthers will let Tommy DeVito get comfortable or run wild if he gets out of the pocket. Pitt controlled the line of scrimmage last year -- recording nine sacks (tacking down DeVito seven times) and 12 quarterback hurries -- and I don't think that changing. They also held the Orange to 51 yards on the ground a year ago. Moreover, the under is 6-2 in the last eight meetings between Pitt and Syracuse.

Prediction: Under 50

Daniel Benjamin

Daniel Benjamin is extremely passionate about sports particularly all things basketball. He loves crunching numbers and providing in-depth analysis. Prior to joining our staff here at Winners & Whiners and StatSalt, Daniel has written sports for a variety of outlets. He has covered the NBA, college basketball, NFL, college football, WNBA, soccer, and MLB since 2010.

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