Sure was nice to experience a win again! Time to kick off Big East play and begin our march to the International Bowl!
Where: Syracuse, New York in the Carrier Dome
Television: Time Warner 26 – SNY – ESPN Gameplan – ESPN 360
Tailgating information: http://www.texanmarktailgate.blogspot.com/
Pittsburgh Reading Material (via pacusefan): http://www.cuseorange.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=7482
The Spread: Opened at Pittsburgh -15 and has since moved to Pittsburgh -16. The Over/Under is 46.5.
Rivalry info: The Syracuse and Pittsburgh rivalry lies deadlocked at 30-30-3. The teams first faced off on October 21st, 1916 and have played every year since 1955. Pitt is 5-1 in the series since 2002. The last time Syracuse beat Pitt was in a 2OT thriller in the Carrier Dome in 2004 (click on link for video.)
Coaches: Pittsburgh - Dave Wannstedt - 4th season at Pittsburgh (16-19 overall.) Syracuse- Greg Robinson – 4th season at Syracuse (8-31 overall.)
Syracuse Offense ranked #104 vs Pittsburgh Defense ranked #46: Once again Cameron Dantley and the Offense looked pretty good against an inferior defense. Dantley completed 14 of his 17 attempts but only 4 of those completions were to Orange wide recievers (Sales – 2, Davis – 1, Lobdell – 1.) We’re four games into the season and still waiting for someone to really emerge (Lobdell…c’mon.) I know we were somewhat spoiled with a few years of Mike and Taj – but it doesnt seem like 4-5 receptions is too much to ask! It seems our only hope is in FR Marcus Sales who continues to work himself more and more into the offense and continues to show what seems to be the only set of hands on this team. Pitt opponents have been able to find a few seams in the Pitt secondary going 66/110 (60%) for 616 yards – 3 TD’s – and 2 INT’s in three games – so Dantley shouldnt have much of a problem with our short passing game as long as he has time. Which presents a big problem – the Pittsburgh pass rush. The Panthers are ranked 5th in the nation when it comes to sacks – averaging just under four a game. The Offensive line has looked much better but Pitt is going to do whatever they can to get at Dantley – probably sending 7-8 on a regular basis after seeing tape of our non-existent down field threat. Keep an eye on the Offensive Line – this is easily their biggest test and a big time barometer not only to the guys – but to Browning.
Brinkley and Hogue looked spectacular last week – both notching 100 yard games on the ground and powering the offense accounting for all three Orange touchdowns. Donnie Webb reports Carter is back to practicing after suffering a hamstring injury against Penn State – but still doesnt know if he’ll see the field against Pitt. I’d rather avoid all injury – but we’re going to need all the horses for this one. As I already mentioned - Pitt brings a strong rush D and one of the nations best LB’s Scott McKillop to the table. McKillop picked up right where he left off last season and is averaging 10+ tackles a game (just under 2 Tackles for Loss a game.) The outside is going to be sealed off completely – and our success relies entirely on what happens between the tackles. Boonah is going to get his deserved carries and may break a few – but if there is a difference maker in the game – its going to be Hogue and his physicality. Grind the clock, convert a few downs, and why not try tiring out an opposing defense for once?
Pittsburgh Offense ranked #83 vs Syracuse Defense ranked #114: Seems as if Pitt is hurting a lot more than expected this season after losing three starting lineman from 2007. LeSean McCoy is one of the best backs in the Big East but still hasnt been able to hit the 100 yard mark this season – something he did 7 times last year. If there is a game to get back on track its this one for McCoy. LeSean torched us for 140 yards last year and we’re not any better this year giving up nearly 200 yards rushing a game. If Wanny has a brain (arguable) he’ll give the ball to McCoy 35 times and let him do the work. Don’t forgot LaRod Stephens-Howling either. In 2006 Stephens Howling torched us in the Dome on track to 212 rushing yards. Obviously he’s not Pittsburgh’s premier back – but he’ll get a chunk of carries while refreshing McCoy. Who knows what’ll happen when he gets a whiff of that steamy Dome air he remembers huffing and puffing a few years ago after a few 50 yard scampers.
Although Pitt will do more than enough damage on the ground – Pittsburgh’s pass offense is one of the worst we’ll face this season. Quarterback Bill Stull has yet to get much going in the air and has seen his workload decrease game by game. On the season Stull has only thrown one TD to his three interceptions – and thats even against two subpar secondarys in Buffalo and Bowling Green. Pitt wont need to use the air more than 15-20 times to balance things out a bit – but I wouldnt be surprised if they used this game to tweak a few things against our Pass Defense that ranks among the nations worst.
Why Syracuse will win: Flaherty keeps McCoy in his sites all day and is able to keep McCoy somewhat contained. Jones attacks a greener Pitt OL and is able to disrupt Stull a few times and force a few turnovers which we turn into points. Brinkley and Hogue control the ground game and the clock and break out for a few scores.
Why Pittsburgh will win: McCoy breaks out the way everyone thought he would to start the season and torches the Orange for 150+. The Pitt Defense has no trouble stopping the motor of the Orange offense in Brinkley and the Orange are only able to settle for a few FG’s.
Syracuse player to watch: K Patrick Shadle. Shadle is 6/7 on the year for FG’s (missed 51 yarder off the upright against Northwestern) and is 9/9 in PA. The Pitt defense gives up the yardage but has been able to keep opponents out of the endzone. We might need to call on Shadle more than once.
Pittsburgh player to watch: LB Scott McKillop. McKillop is averaging 10.33 tackles a game and 1.67 TFL in three games this season. Mckillop accounted for 151 tackles in 2007.
Reyes39 Prediction: Pittsburgh 38 Syracuse 16
-Stats thanks to ncaa.org and cfbdatawarehouse.com
-Curtis Brinkley photo from Frank Ordonez/The Post Standard