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Pitt-Syracuse Q&A with Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this week, I answered some questions for SB Nation's Syracuse blog, Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician. John, who writes for that site, also was kind enough to answer some of the questions I had about the game and the Orange. You can catch up with John on Twitter.

See my questions with his answers below.

Looking solely at the team's statistics, I don't see many playmakers on offense that stand out. Who are the guys that can do some damage offensively, or that you might expect to emerge later on.

Syracuse actually has a lot of playmakers. But they're unable to consistently get the ball to one or two of them. That's meant a bit of an offense-by-committee, which has frustrated fans, especially as the team's started losing again.

QB Eric Dungey is the catalyst for both the pass and run, as we continue to utilize the option to move the football on the ground. He's a dynamic and athletic player, despite being just a freshman, and we're pretty excited about his future at SU. Fellow freshman Jordan Fredericks is equally exciting at running back, and as long as he keeps getting the ball (they oddly make him split carries), he'll continue to pick up big chunks of yards. Steve Ishmael, Ervin Philips and Brisly Estime are your main receiving weapons, with the latter two being some of the fastest guys on the field at any one time. Dungey also throws to Ben Lewis a ton, as he's proven adept at getting around defenders no matter where he is on the field. Seems weird to say "watch out for all of those guys," but there really isn't one particular player who's going to get the lion's share of touches.

After a really down 3-9 season last year, is this sort of a make or break year for head coach Scott Shafer or do you expect he'll get more time regardless of this year's final outcome?
The fan base is torn there. Last season was full of injuries, so some are willing to write an excuse for the season and see this as "year two." But as the results downgrade from 3-0 to 3-3, the heat is definitely starting to turn up a bit. With some quality talent at the freshman level and what seems like an encouraging class coming in (still not top 50, however), 5-7 will probably buy him another season. We do have a new athletic director, and he certainly wants to fix football sooner rather than later. So a lot of this is also a bit of a guess.
The defense has had some problems the last three games, giving up an average of just over 40 points per contest in that stretch. What's been the real issue on that side of the ball?
Everything. There was some improvement in the early part of the Virginia game, but by the end, that faded away and the typically underwhelming Hoos attack just laid waste to the Orange. The secondary can't cover ANYTHING, so if you guys want to throw on us, go ahead. Syracuse's bread and butter of late has been stopping the run, but that's also fallen by the wayside. The linebackers have also struggled defending the pass. So yeah, lots of issues. I'm scared for what happens next.

After losing Terrel Hunt for the season, freshman quarterback Eric Dungey has really been a bright spot and has played well. I know that Hunt has appealed for a sixth year and if he's granted it, how do you see the quarterback situation playing out going forward. There's still a half season left to play, but if you had to guess now, would Hunt get his job back if he got another year or is it Dungey's to lose?

I don't think Hunt gets his job back at this point. Dungey's clearly the future play-caller for the program and the offense is very much improved under him. That's no knock on Hunt, but the fifth-year senior has never played a full season for Syracuse and hasn't played in a full game since early October of 2014. Even if he got that sixth year by some miracle, I just think his time to be the starting quarterback of the Orange may have passed. If SU can rally to make a bowl game this year with Dungey at QB, that'll confirm it.

Who are the top NFL prospects on either side of the ball for the Orange?

This year's filled with youth, so it's tough to tell just yet with a lot of them. But Rob Trudo seems like a good bet to be playing guard on Sundays in 2016, and if the team does a better job of getting Ishmael involved through this season and next, I bet you see him trying to make an NFL roster down the line. Defensively, the team doesn't have a ton of pro-type talent, except for Ron Thompson, a physical freak that can shift around to multiple positions along the line and at linebacker too. The converted tight end leads the team in sacks and can be terrifying with a full head of steam. His versatility is what should have scouts excited, however.

What's your prediction for Saturday's game?
I'd love to pick Syracuse to win, since I think a win rescues the season and I'd love nothing more than to watch that happen. But there are simply too many issues for this defense to just expect anything anymore. If Nathan Peterman plays as efficiently as he seemed to last weekend, that'll be plenty to tear right through the Orange secondary. We've made a habit of letting opposing offensive players putu up career-high numbers this year, so pencil him in for over 300 yards through the air and four scores.

SU's offense will play well enough to keep them around. But this one's sadly (for me) a loss. Pitt 34, Syracuse 26.

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