A big one on Friday night in the ACC as both teams try to stay in the race
Friday night lights in New York, as Syracuse hosts Pittsburgh in the Carrier Dome. These two played a wild game at Heinz Field last year with the Panthers winning 44-37 in overtime. Both squads made a field goal in the last six minutes to send the game to the extra frame. The home team ran for 265 yards with two players going for over 100, while Eric Dungey accounted for nearly 270 all-purpose yards for the Orange.
The 2019 Syracuse team is 3-3 and has not won a game yet in ACC play, falling to Clemson and NC State. Last week, the offense was anemic in a 16-10 loss in Raleigh. Tommy DeVito clearly didn't look right in the first half but then turned it on late. Their wins have come over Liberty, Western Michigan and Holy Cross with the losses being to Maryland and the aforementioned conference opponents. This is their fourth home tilt over their last five overall, so with three of their next four on the road, this is rather important to pick up.
Pittsburgh will have had 13 days to relish in their victory at Duke back on Oct. 5. The Panthers outscored the Blue Devils, 33-30, as quarterback Kenny Pickett returned under center. This team has won three straight and is 4-2 overall with a 1-1 record in the ACC. Pitt's wins have come over Ohio, UCF, Delaware, and Duke with the losses being to UVA and Penn State on the road. It's hard to believe how well these guys have played since they had to deal with their coach attempting a field goal from the 1 in the loss to the rival Nittany Lions when they'd still have needed a touchdown to win.
Pittsburgh at Syracuse
Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Pittsburgh -3
When Syracuse Has the Ball
Tommy DeVito's numbers looked good last week with 300 passing yards and a touchdown, but it was the plays that weren't made in the crucial moments that will hurt. The signal-caller was constantly on the run, as the Wolfpack were able to harass him into eight sacks. He's been sacked 26 times already as injuries up front have handicapped this offense greatly. Before the season began, the team was hoping the duo of Moe Neal and Abdul Adams would be a factor, but instead, the ground game nets 3.1 yards per carry with seven touchdowns. Trishton Jackson has been fantastic at wide receiver, but the rest of the group is really inconsistent.
Pittsburgh's defense held PSU to 17 points way back in Week 3 on the road. They've also proven vulnerable at times, giving up 30 or more three times. Eleven different Panthers have registered sacks with Jaylen Twyman, Kylan Johnson and Patrick Jones II accounting for 14 themselves. This team is fourth against the pass and the run in the ACC this season.
When Pittsburgh Has the Ball
Pickett's return to the lineup a couple of weeks ago was a welcomed sight for the Panthers. He's put up decent numbers this year with a 60.7 percent completion rate to go along with six touchdowns to four interceptions. Pickett relies heavily on wide receivers Maurice Ffrench and Taysir Mack, who have a combined 91 receptions and 907 yards. It's nice to have two reliable targets, but there's not a lot of depth behind them. Todd Sibley Jr. and A.J. Davis are the two biggest ground-gainers, but all in all, this is not the team's strength. They average just 3.4 yards per carry and have four rushing touchdowns.
Syracuse's defensive line is led by Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman who have combined for five sacks. Their problem is also depth and consistency behind them as it feels like things drop off when they sit. Lakiem Williams and Brandon Berry actually have the most sacks on the Orange with 3.5. Their secondary has been dealing with some injuries and it shows as the Cuse is 12th against the pass in the ACC. We'll see if they can get a bit healthier for this one.
Time will tell if the friendly confines of the Carrier Dome will help the Orange. They haven't come anywhere close to matching the preseason hype that was thrown on them. Part of it is injuries, and I think part of it is that they weren't as good as we thought. Pittsburgh is coming off a bye week, so they'll be fresh, but I wonder if desperation wins out here. Syracuse is running out of opportunities for wins if they hope to make a bowl. I think they can get one here.
Prediction: Syracuse 27, Pittsburgh 23
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.