It was always the game Pitt fans feared most under Dave Wannstedt. Not the game against Rutgers or UConn that Pitt would somehow lose, not the Bowling Greens or the Ohios of the schedule, but rather the game after a bye. Like games that were nationally televised, which Pitt would find some new and horrible way to lose, the game after a bye week (more than 10 days in between games) were always tough for Pitt. Yes, Pitt wasn't good the first few years of the Wannstedt era, but even in the later years, Pitt always would come up short after these long breaks.
Here's a recap of games that Pitt played after a lengthy break, not including bowl games:
42-20 L @ Louisville
45-13 L @ West Virginia
22-12 L @ South Florida
48-45 L vs. Navy
20-16 L @ Rutgers
21-20 W vs. Iowa
42-21 W @ Navy
28-21 L @ Cincinnati
37-10 W vs. Syracuse
19-16 L @ West Virginia
31-3 L vs. Miami
30-28 L vs. Connecticut
3-9. That's awful and some of those games would have given Pitt a Big East title (2008 vs. Cincinnati, 2010 vs. Connecticut) or a ton of national recognition (Miami). But ultimately, these losses cost Wannstedt his job. Because had Pitt won a few more of those games, especially later, he would likely still be the Pitt head coach.
But what's done is done. And now the Panthers head into their first post-bye week game under Paul Chryst and as Pitt fans, it's going to be something that's floating around in the back of our heads. Can this coaching staff be different? My gut says yes, although it may take some time. As Chas of Pitt Blather points out, Chryst was 4-3 at Wisconsin following a bye and the three losses all came early in his tenure as the offensive coordinator. Of course, playing teams like Michigan and Penn State are a bit more challenging than Rutgers and UConn, but that's besides the point.
Chas also points out the struggles of Tino Sunseri after a bye week. We all remember the Miami game from a few years back and the Backyard Brawl from last season (Tino is still getting sacked, by the way) so there is a bit of pressure on him as well to shake the bye week blues and continue with another strong performance like we've seen from him against the Hokies and Gardner-Webb.
Syracuse hasn't had the greatest first four games. After keeping it close against then-#2 USC in week 2, the Orange have struggled scoring against Stony Brook and Minnesota, not exactly defensive powerhouses. In their last outing against the Gophers, the Orange managed just 10 points and turned the ball over four times. The Panther defense, which has forced seven turnovers in their past two games, could be in for another good showing. If the offense can do it's part, Pitt can come out of the Carrier Dome with the W and set up a big showdown at Heinz Field against undefeated Louisville.
Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics.