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Pitt vs. Syracuse: At first glance

Rich Barnes-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

After a couple of wins over Virginia Tech and then Gardner-Webb, Pitt takes their show on the road to Syracuse for a Friday night game against the Orange. The last time the Panthers were on in prime time didn't go so well.

One comforting thing is that Pitt has done very well in the Carrier Dome, defeating Syracuse there in their last three games. In fact, the Panthers have played well against the Orange in general recently. They've won the last seven games and have taken nine out of the last ten. But as we all know, past history isn't all that important for this season. And having lost three games already, you can bet that Syracuse will be hungry for a win.

Pitt will face a 1-3 Syracuse team that might look pretty bad at first glance. But upon closer inspection, all three of their losses have been fairly respectable. They lost by a point to Northwestern in their opener - and in case you've not been paying attention, the Wildcats are 5-0 this season. The Orange followed that up by hanging with then No. 2 ranked USC for three quarters before fading in the fourth. And after defeating Stony Brook, they lost by only a touchdown on the road to Minnesota (who was a perfect 4-0 before suffering their first loss this weekend).

Syracuse's three losses have come to teams that are a combined 12-2. What's it mean? The Orange might not be as bad as their record indicates.

You know what terrifies me about this game? It's that Syracuse has a quality quarterback under center in Ryan Nassib. Pitt was beaten by Youngstown State's Kurt Hess, who didn't throw for a ton of yards, but had a couple of touchdowns and didn't make any significant mistakes. Same exact thing for Munchie Legaux. They settled down to have a big game defensively against Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas, but with four touchdowns and six picks in his last three games, he hasn't exactly been Joe Montana (or even Tino Sunseri for that matter). Facing a veteran quarterback that's pretty good is a bit worrisome.

Despite the good competition he's faced, Nassib has ten touchdowns to five interceptions and as of this weekend, was second in the nation in passing yardage with nearly 1,400 yards already. He carved up Northwestern for nearly 500 yards and added more than 300 against both USC and Stony Brook. In other words, teams haven't been able to slow him down all that much.

None of that is to suggest that Pitt can't win this game. If the Panthers show up the way they did against Virginia Tech and Gardner-Webb in their last two contests, I don't envision them losing. But with Nassib at the helm, the Panthers are more than capable of dropping this one on the road with a weak defensive effort. At first glance, Pitt should win this game, but it might not be very easy.

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