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Pitt vs. Syracuse: Q&A with Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician

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Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

With Pitt's game against Syracuse this weekend, we checked in with our good friends Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician (TNIAAM, for short) - SB Nation's resident blog for all things Cuse. John over there was kind enough to answer our questions about the Orange - be sure to give him a follow on Twitter. In addition, be sure to check out their page for my answers to John's questions.

So, I mean, after last year, you guys hate Aaron Donald, right? Confirm/Deny, please.

Admittedly, we're never really fond of any Pitt players, so Donald's contribution to last year's loss didn't move him up the list THAT far. In general, that entire game was such a fiasco that left a very bitter taste in Syracuse fans' mouths. I do think Donald's a great player, however, and I look forward to seeing him grow more into even more of a force on Sundays.

Syracuse kind of drew the short straw when they were sent to the Atlantic. Facing Florida State and Clemson every year is no easy proposition. If they switched places with Pitt, the Orange probably have some more success while Pitt struggles a little more, right?

I think this could go either way. On the one hand, SU's 0-2 versus non-Pitt Coastal teams in two years and really, games against Wake Forest, NC State and Boston College aren't going to kill you every season. But at the same time, yeah, we look over at you guys in the Coastal and wonder "what if" a whole lot. Maybe last year ends with eight wins instead of seven. Maybe this year we'd have gotten six instead of the probable three or four. Louisville's the key to the Atlantic being so brutal now, since that's three top-flight teams to worry about. But given Syracuse's injuries this season, I don't know if divisions would've really mattered much.

Because of that, do Syracuse fans talk about a realignment of sorts, or maybe eliminating Divisions altogether?

When we feel like the only thing holding us back is facing FSU and Clemson each year, yeah, we have plenty of divisional realignment talk. When we're beaten down and see that there's a lot more to it than just a few tough opponents, we sort of chalk it up to "okay guys, just try to get better and control what you can control." I'd prefer eliminating divisions altogether and going the route of three protected matchups per team. But who knows if that ever comes to fruition.

After two straight winning seasons, this year has been a bit of a disaster for Syracuse, as it has been for Pitt as well. Is this season kind of a bump in the road or are there greater concerns about the program needing drastic changes?

We'll see, really. After an 8-5 campaign in 2010, we had a bump in the road in 2011 (5-7), followed by two straight winning seasons. So next year really dictates what this year is in the big scheme of things. Recruiting's seen an uptick and you can see there's more talent on the field -- but we schedule ourselves into holes with tough non-conference slates, the coaching staff creates a lot of questions for the fan base and this year, we were ravaged by injuries. So yeah... TBD.

Where are fans at with Scott Shafer. The team, as I mentioned, had some success last year but took a large step back this season. Shafer is still working largely with an inherited team, so what's the book on him as a coach and how is he viewed?

Shafer had been with the program under Doug Marrone as a defensive coordinator, so while he inherited a bunch of kids, he knew all the carryovers and the defense was his. We understand the impact of injuries this season, but patience is definitely not something Syracuse fans are known for. We've spent too much time wallowing in mediocrity. This has less to do with Shafer in particular, and more to do with overall thoughts on the program. He has faith from the fans. But another losing season could end all of that.

Who are the players with NFL potential on Syracuse's roster?

There are actually a bunch, believe it or not. Sean Hickey is a pro-caliber offensive tackle, and Durell Eskridge seems like he has the potential to produce as an NFL safety. Outside linebacker Dyshawn Davis also looks poised to play on Sundays. There are some fringe guys too (for this year's draft) -- Jarrod West, Prince-Tyson Gulley, Cam Lynch (among others) but the jury's still out on whether or not they'll be selected come April.

Give us a prediction for the game.

Syracuse's offense simply can't get past some persistent issues and mistakes, and that's what ultimately kills them here. We've been horrendous in the red zone all season, and the continuation of that theme ultimately kills any and all chances we might have against Pitt. Would be nice if we could eliminate you guys from bowl eligibility, but let's be honest: Miami's going to take care of that next week anyway (sorry). Pitt 24, Syracuse 17.

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