No. 25 Pitt is coming off a 55-0 dismantling of Austin Peay last weekend at Heinz Field in a game that really wasn’t as close as the score indicates. Syracuse, on the other hand, watched North Carolina put up 21 points in the fourth quarter to pull away en route to a 31-6 loss to the Tar Heels.
The two foes will square off in Pittsburgh at high noon ET Saturday in what is likely a must-win game for the Orange and a chance for the Panthers to kick off ACC play on the right foot. Are either threats to make it to the ACC Championship Game? After watching Syracuse last weekend, it’s safe to say that a trip to Charlotte isn’t likely. Pitt, on the other hand, showed off a dynamic offense and a stingy defense in the win over the Governors. Another blowout win would make a big statement to the rest of the conference as the ACC season cranks up.
Pitt: Quarterback Kenny Pickett was on fire vs. the Governors, going 14-of-20 passing for 277 yards, one touchdown and averaging 13.9 yards per attempt. The 202.84 passer rating was tops in the ACC in Week 2. Yes, even better than Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. Three different Panthers had 68 or more receiving yards and 10 different players had catches in a game that included 10-minute quarters in the second half. The defense was expected to be stout even after star defensive lineman Jaylen Twyman opted out. Stout, it was. The Panthers allowed just 137 yards and one — yes, one — rushing yard. I know that it’s Austin Peay and the level of competition played a part in that, but one rushing yard is hard to do no matter the opponent.
Syracuse: Saying that the Orange offense sputtered would be an insult to broken down cars everywhere. It got crushed and thrown in the junkyard by North Carolina’s defense. The supposed fast-paced offense that coach Dino Babers prides himself on managed just 202 yards and averaged 2.77 yards per play on Saturday. The defense, however, forced two picks from star Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell, which should provide a glimmer of hope heading into Week 3. Freshman defensive back Garrett Williams led all Orange tacklers with nine stops on the afternoon, and the defense had eight tackles for loss.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 19 | Time: Noon ET
Location: Heinz Field — Pittsburgh
TV: ACC Network | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Game prediction, picks
Picking this game comes down to one question: Do you believe that Pitt’s success last weekend was a result of poor competition or an indication that the Panthers are legit? I’ll reluctantly go with the former. Look, Pitt will get the job done rather easily. But the ‘Cuse defense will provide much more of a challenge than some are expecting. Look for a low-scoring, ugly affair with Pitt going ultra-conservative in the second half in an attempt to drain the clock. That won’t be enough to cover. Pick: Syracuse (+21.5)
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