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At First Glance: Previewing Pitt's next opponent, the Syracuse Orange

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Fresh off of a 31-28 win against Georgia Tech, Pitt will head out of town for yet another road game - this time against the Syracuse Orange.

Record/Schedule

The Orange are an even 3-3 heading into the game against the Panthers. For Pitt, they'll again be facing a team on a bit of a skid. After a 3-0 start, Syracuse has lost its past three games. One of those losses was one to be expected - a matchup against Top 10 LSU. Since then, though, the Orange have dropped road games against some of the weaker teams on their schedule in South Florida and Virginia.

Most Recent Game

Last weekend, the Orange lost a triple overtime game to Virginia, 44-38. For the Cavaliers, it was only their second win of the year.

Standouts

Syracuse doesn't have many offensive stars, but on defense, they feature a couple of standouts. Junior defensive end Ron Thompson is tied for the conference lead in sacks with five. In the secondary, cornerback Corey Winfield is third in the ACC with a pair of interceptions. Winfield also recorded a pair of sacks in the Virginia game and he took one of his aforementioned picks back for a touchdown.

Under Center

Leading the way offensively is freshman quarterback Eric Dungey. Dungey has played very well this season and leads the ACC in passer rating. He hasn't thrown for a ton of yards with 810 on the season, but his 9:1 touchdown/interception ratio is third in the conference behind only Everett Golson and Brad Kaaya. He's completing 63% of his passes and has been very solid for the Orange.

Dungey also has hurt defenses with his feet, racking up more than 200 yards on the ground and he has three rushing scores to his credit.

Strengths

In addition to Dungey's play and the pressure from Thompson on the defensive line, Syracuse also has a few other things going for them. When the team gets into the red zone, they almost always come away with points. Of Syracuse's 21 trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line, they've gotten points on 19 occasions (14 touchdowns and five field goals). That 90.5% success rate is good for 20th in the nation. The Orange's special teams have also stood out. With over 19 yards per punt return, they rank 6th in the nation in that category. Syracuse has also gotten over 40 net yards per punt, which is 24th in the country.

Weaknesses

After starting off strong defensively, Syracuse has really not done a good job at keeping their opponents from scoring. The Orange have given up an average of 41 points over their past three contests, including 89 total to South Florida and Virginia. If nothing else, the Panthers should be able to get on the scoreboard a decent amount against Syracuse.

On offense, Syracuse also doesn't have very many playmakers. Syracuse's running game is near the middle of the FBS, but they don't yet have even a 300-yard rusher. Steve Ishmael leads the receivers, and he only checks in at No. 25 in the ACC with 258 yards. There are players capable of having a good game, but overall, the team really doesn't have many offensive weapons to speak of, which has led to a No. 110 total offense ranking.

Finally, the Orange have also given up quite a few yards in the air. Opposing quarterbacks have thrown for just over 250 yards per game against them and Syracuse ranks only 95th in that category. Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman would appear to have a good chance to top his season-best of 222 yards, which came against Virginia.

Prognosis

If you add everything up, this looks like a very winnable game for Pitt. The Panthers do have to play on the road and will be facing a pretty desperate Syracuse team, but Pitt also has plenty to play for. While the Orange are playing to reach a bowl game, Pitt has hopes of winning its Division and getting into the ACC title game. With several difficult games left, a loss simply isn't an option here.

The big question is if Pitt will be looking past the Orange with upcoming games against one-loss North Carolina and Notre Dame teams. However, the Panthers have both the better offense and defense here. If they come ready to play and aren't taking Syracuse lightly, that makes them a relatively easy pick in this game.

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