On paper, Pitt should dominate this one.

Syracuse hasn’t beaten a power five opponent this season. They also haven’t scored more than twenty points against a power five opponent.

And while you can say what you want about people in glass houses not throwing stones (Pitt has only scored more than twenty points against P5 once this year) at least Pitt has a semi-compent offensive line.  Syracuse’s clearly does not.  They’ve surrendered 26 sacks in six games, including eight last week to NC State.  They also gave up four to Maryland, and another eight to Clemson.  That’s 20 sacks surrendered against three power five opponents – nearly seven per game.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that forty percent of the starting Orange line weighs in at under 290 lbs.  Ouch.

 If Jaylen Twyman doesn’t own 273 lb Airon Servais on Friday he needs to be benched on general principle.

When he has time to throw, Orange Quarterback Tommy DeVito isn’t half bad.  He’s completed 65% of his passes for 1500 yards and 12 TD’s against just five interceptions.  That’s good for a rating of 142.5.  And despite getting knocked around against NC State last week, he still completed 74% of his passes for 300 yards.  He could just as easily do that against Pitt.

Junior Wide Receiver Trishton Jackson is DeVito’s favorite target, and he’s on pace for just about 1000 yards and 12(!) touchdowns. He’s accounted for half of DeVito’s passing touchdowns this year.

It’s pretty obvious that Syracuse is a passing team with a bad offensive line, and this running stats support this observation.  Their three top backs average 4.3, 3.8 and 2.8 yards per carry respectively (and you thought Pitt had problems…). ‘ Cuse RB’s have totaled six touchdowns on the ground though.  That’s 50% more Pitt’s total.  Granted three of those Syracuse touchdowns came against Liberty and one against Holy Cross…

It all adds up to an offense that is averaging 378 yards per game, which is 93rd in the country, and averages 25.5 points per game, which is good for 91st.  This is a far cry from last year’s 10-2 team , which finished 19th in the country with 464 yards per game, and 11th in the country with just over 40 points per game.  Of course, Pitt beat that 10-2 team last season.

On the defensive side of the ball, things aren’t that much better for the Orangemen.  Their defense ranks 93rd, and they are giving up 426 yards per game.  Their scoring defense is a bit better.  It ranks 63rd and they give up 26 points per game.  They held NC State to 16 last week, but NC Sate is only averaging 17 PPG against P5 competition…so yeah.

Breaking down the Syracuse defense a little further, you’ll see that they are giving up 277 yards per game through the air, which puts them at 111th in the country.  They are only giving up 149 yards per game on the ground though (good for 61st!).  Apprently they are committed to stopping the run.

Despite the relatively poor team defense stats, Syracuse has a solid linebacking corps.  Lakeim Williams and Andrew Armstrong are both on pace to register 80+ tackles.  Williams has 3.5 sacks on the year.  The Syracuse pass rush isn’t bad either.  They are 13th in the country with 3.3 sacks per game (19 total)…buuuut four of those 19 sacks came against Liberty.  Eight came against Holy Cross.  So…yea, that leaves seven sacks in four games against FBS competition.

The Orangemen’s defensive backfield has been without a couple of key players for the last three games.  Safety Andre Cisco has seven picks last year and was a pre-season All-American.  Sadly, he returns just in time to play Pitt  Hopefully he still has to shake off some rust.  Redshirt Sophomore Ifeatu Melifonwu returns from injury as well.  He’s 6’3″ and notched 6 PBU’s last season in nine games.  If they are fully healthy, these guys are instant upgrades for the Orangemen’s pass defense.

Also, the game looks like it could be a sloppy one.  Syracuse is 117th in the country with 74 penalty yards per game.  Pitt, of course, is one of the few teams with more.

On the Pitt side of the ball, we all pretty much know the storylines.  Expect a 60/40 pass/run ratio.  Expect lots of short passes and few touchdowns.  Expect our defense to dominate the line of scrimmage.  Expect us to miss a kick or two.  Speaking of missing, Paris Ford will miss the first half and that will certainly impact how we play, but on the other hand Jazzee Stocker is well seasoned and probably good enough to start on most ACC teams.  He doesn’t have the playmaking ability of Ford, but all he has to do is not make any mistakes for 30 minutes.  Two weeks of practice should help to round Stocker into starting form.

So yes, even though Ford is out for the first half, on paper you’d still set the over/under at 9 sacks, and you’d probably set it at 300 passing yards for Pitt. At the same time you’d expect it to be a low scoring game.  The question is will we be focused?  If we are I believe this Pitt team can dominate.  We saw thirty minutes of that against Duke, (who is undoubtedly better than Syracuse).  If Pitt isn’t focused… well then, we fans will have good reason to bitch and complain, because even though this is a rivalry game, it is also extremely winnable…on paper.

Hail to Pitt

Michaelangelo Monteleone

84 thoughts on “Syracuse Preview

  1. I saw some of the Syracuse v NCST game. A few observations:

    They run Devito (QB) out of the shotgun. He’s accurate on the short passes (slants, bubble screens & RB screens). They love the short passes to Jackson (WR) and to the RBs. Devito can run, but is not particularly fast or elusive. He can throw the deep ball if he plants and heaves, otherwise he is not great with the long ball.

    Jackson (WR) is really good.

    Syracuse OL is suspect.

    The Syracuse DL is solid and athletic. They blitz the LBs often.

    Syracuse’ defense is aggressive, but plays like the one Pitt scored on against Duke in the final minute or so will work well against Syracuse.

    Pitt should be able to find a way to win this one.

    (re-posted from the previous thread)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agree, Rocky. Syracuse always has some decent defenders. And that WR of theirs looks very good.

      My biggest fear is that the Ghost of Troy Nunes returns to inhabit Danny Devito on Friday nite. I still have Troy Nunes Nightmares!

      Do we try to run some clock to try to shorten the first half? Duzz said on the radio tonight that they worked on trying to improve the run game — both moving people better, and scheming better…

      Go Pitt.


  2. Yesterday’s Triblive Pitt writeup on French’s comments about Pickett and his(Ffrench’s) new approach to the game by way of our new WR coach I found very interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m always leery about playing in the Dome!

    MM: “…it’s also winnable – on paper.” I’d much prefer to play this one on paper!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Pitt seems to always play to the level of it’s competition, so I expect another close game.

    I guess Friday Night means more TV’s tuned in nationally if not locally due to high school games, so both teams should be fired up.

    Is this Pickett’s first game in a dome, if so that could be an issue, but at least no wind to worry about.

    As always turnovers will be key. At Duke they were the whole story.


  5. Maestro’s articles remind me of my mother’s cooking (especially pasta with braciole.) It was so consistently good that we were amazed if the dinner was not up to her high standard. Well Maestro, you just served up another delicious entry … plenty of pertinent data and observations.

    I agree that Pitt’s advantage is the DL, and pressuring DeVito (a nice Italian boy I assume.) DeVito may have a stronger more accurate arm but he is not nearly as mobile / athletic as his predecessor, and certainly not the playmaker.

    Nonetheless, Syracuse usually plays much harder in the dome and remembers last year’s upset loss. Plus one of the issues with a half-season’s data is that it ignores the learning curve. The Orange defense I saw last week looked much more improved than the one I saw in the 2nd week which gave up 62 to Maryland.

    I think Pitt is the better team but will be very surprised if it is easy … but as a long time Pitt fan, I always proceed with caution.

    PS — I very much miss my mom’s cornmeal mush (polenta for you yuppies) topped with sauce and sausage as well as her minestra (greens and beans)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. PSS– the real Syracuse is a city on the east coast of Sicily. A beautiful place according to my sister


      1. There is an interesting story why a lot of the place names in that part of NY State have classical names; Ithaca, Homer, Rome,Syracuse, Utica and etc. After the Revolutionary War, the Indian land (the Indians on the British side) was divvied up and given to the war vets. The Assistant Surveyor for NY State loved the classics

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Syracuse is a hole and it’s very cold in winter with over ten feet of snow. Campus is unimpressive and the Dome is an eyesore. And no wonder why they have a tough time recruiting.

    I expect a close game. Syracuse can pass and they can be effective running. But their line is worse than Pitts. Their D is solid but not getting turnovers. That was their key to success last year. The Dome is a tough place to play. Might cause Pitt problems if they aren’t used to noise. They are well coached. You don’t have to worry about Babers calling a bad timeout or kicking a field goal on a 4th and goal.

    Comes down to a field goal attempt by Pitt in waning seconds after a KP led 70 yard drive.


    1. The other thing that a lot of ppl don’t realize about the dome is that it is literally a high pressure place to play.

      The roof is held up by air pressure, which means the air pressure inside the dome has to be slightly higher than the normal air pressure. You can tangibly feel it when you walk in. I’d have to imagine its an adjustment – even if just mentally – and a unique home field advantage for those who practice in it.


      1. On his radio show, Coach Duzz mentioned that it’s hot in the dome. Said it feels like it’s 90 playing in there…

        Go Pitt.


    2. “You don’t have to worry about Babers calling a bad timeout or kicking a field goal on a 4th and goal.”

      So are you on record as saying Babers is a better head coach than Narduzzi?


      1. I’m saying that babers wont make a coaching mistake that will cost his team the game. I wouldn’t hire either of them however.


    3. TX Panther, When was the last time you were in Syracuse? My son and his friends praised the upgrades to the campus. It is a $70,000. per yr school! Enrollment is increasing. It is the Metro NYC school followed by Penn State.
      I love PITT, but I have to call things the way I see them.


      1. About ten years ago. I doubt the city, campus and climate has significantly improved. I have attended several games, partied there at frats and bars, gone to graduations and have done business there. I know the craphole. You can’t change my opinion despite millions of improvements. It needs billions to look and be normal. Gods armpit I call it.


    1. Well considering how old that dome is…

      I looked at colleges 22 years ago and I was in that dome. It was old then …


    2. It’s like Pitt spending money to renovate old Pitt stadium. The money is better spent on something new. Should just completely rebuild. But I know that would double the cost. A 40k retractable roof stadium with an adjustable pitch to accommodate basketball and hockey would be perfect. $400 million. Cuse has some wealthy alums from the City. They could probably raise that kind of money. Cuse would be the perfect candidate for the stade Pierre mauroy concept. Limited campus space with bad weather and much needed modern homes for multiple programs.

      Fitzgerald is also a humid 90 degrees and a dump. Problem is Pitt cant renovate it. The plumbing and electrical would require a complete gut out. Hence Pitt wants a more modern and smaller venue. Part of Victory Heights.

      Pitt and Cuse generally have sub par facilities and bad weather. One reason why it’s so difficult to recruit in any sport.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Tex, are you related to Tx Panther? No Paris Ford in 1st half plus your comments on high humidity/temp inside the dome will cost us. We don’t play well in second halves often.


  7. FWIW, a PG article on Pitt commit DL Dayon Hayes who has 19 sacks. Yes, the city league is not the best of competition but Westinghouse has also played 3 games outside of the city. The other big local DL to watch is junior Eliot Donald. (Both are highly sought.) Hopefully Eliot’s uncle has influence.

    Getting these two would seem to replenish an already stellar unit

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Wouldn’t be surprised to see this Donald go elsewhere. Tough to be Donald 2.0 at Pitt, I would think…

    Would love to see him give it a go though…

    Go Pitt.


    1. I would be very surprised if Donald does not go to Pitt. His uncle had a great experience here. If Eliot goes elsewhere, it will be a huge failure by Narduzzi and staff.


    1. a concern is the high schools that Donald and Davis attends. Donald is at Central Catholic where PSU OL coach/run game coordinator is from, and where many recent alums have matriculated to Notre Dame. Both are recruiting him hard.

      Davis is at Gateway where PSU assistant, Terry Smith, was the long time HC. Still, he is no shoo-in there as he is getting a lot of attention by OSU, ND as well as Clemson and Bama, where he took an unofficial visit in July. Yes, gc, Pitt doesn’t have a snowball’s chance


      1. I feel like Pitt has held its own at central catholic in recent years. Maybe not getting to marquee guys but getting a lot of solid talent.

        I do not feel like we have held our own at Gateway. Ever.


        1. Would Davis really want to be part of the 4 RB rotation that PSU uses? Or the 2-3 RB rotation that Pitt uses? I wouldn’t be surprised to see Davis leave Pa.


          1. If I’m an elite RB who has offers from every school in the country and has already visited a school 800 miles from home, it would be hard to not have Wisconsin and Georgia at the top of my list.


      2. I saw Davis play, Very athletic but kind of a tweener. Big for a DB but small for a LB. Definitely not a RB. Runs out of the shotgun at Gateway and didn’t get a lot of carries. Doesn’t have the natural RB shiftiness.

        Of course I would love to see him at Pitt. Maybe WR would be his best position to take advantage of his natural athleticism. Truthfully, much rather have Donald. Can’t have enough rush defensive lineman. The best pass defense is putting the QB on his backside and I don’t think Davis is a sure thing on defense.

        In the old days we won the battles against Alabama, ND, etc., for this type of talent. Would love to return to that someday.


  9. MM another great write up. Now my problem is the minus 3 point odds makers placed on Pitt this week looks like a no brainer sucker bet. Pitt should easily cover if they play disciplined football game with much fewer penalties. The problem is I thought Virginia having to give Miami only 3 points last week was also a no brainer bet. Considering that Miami was run over the previous week to V Tech no less. That said what do the odds maker know in making this spread so tight that I don’t see right now? I’m with MM, on paper, Pitt should dominate this game.


    1. I think the difference is that Syracuse is no more talented that pitt. Maybe even less talented.

      Miami is almost always more talented …

      But yes I hear you…what do the oddsmakers know that we do not?


    2. The oddsmakers know that Pitt’s public perception is poor, and it is poor even among its own fanbase. If this collective perception were more in line with reality, you’d see Pitt consistently giving 2-3 more points per game.


  10. Off topic but needs mention IMO. Friday is important not only for Pitt FB but also Pitt BB.

    Pitt hasn’t had a legit center since Steven Adams, and he was here for just 1 year. Since then, the center position has been manned by power forwards or so-so JUCOs.

    On Friday, 4-star center John Hugley from Cleveland is set to announce. Sure, Pitt has been on the final list for a large handful of talented big men over the past many years but has always struck out. But this appears to be different as Rivals, 247 and a couple of so called experts are predicting Pitt



    Yes, Pitt just got a commit from a 6’10 3-star but he is somewhat of a project; nonetheless, he should be an asset in that his strengths are rebounding and shot-blocking …. always a plus. But Hugley looks like the real deal …. he just may be the best commit since Adams.


  11. Orange Head Coach Dino Babers was Pitt’s RB coach under Walt Harris in 2003. Left Pitt for UCLA and then Baylor…

    Jerry D. had an article 2 years ago about Babers — I thought some of the info in this excerpt was interesting…

    “Even though he was at Pitt for only one season, Babers said he learned a valuable lesson from Harris: Get the ball to your playmakers. Of course in 2003, Pitt had one of its all-time great playmakers.

    “The thing that I learned from Walt Harris, especially with Larry Fitzgerald on the team, is that you can throw into double coverage,” Babers said. “I thought, ‘Hey, if you get double coverage, you need to go the other way,’ and (Harris) is like, ‘Hey, it’s double coverage, we understand that, you need to look at Larry. And then if he’s triple covered, you might want to look at Larry again and then decide you don’t want to go to him.’

    “So, it just made me realize that even though people are trying to, through X’s and O’s, take players away from you, you need to find ways to get your really, really good players the ball.”

    From Briles, he said he learned to run the fast-tempo offense Pitt will see Saturday and to be “super, super aggressive.”

    Gotta love the aggressive and unconventional thinking by Walt H. — course not many Larry’s come along…

    Go Pitt.


      1. Please define elite horses Tex? IMO Pitt currently has several NFL draft picks that will to in the first 3 rounds when they decide to go into the draft. If I’m right on that score that’s pretty elite to me.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’d say in the last five narduzzi years, there has been only three elites. Can you name them ?

          One major reason why Pitt fails under narduzzi. Failing meaning no bowl wins, no breakout seasons, no final rankings. But go ahead and worship that participation trophy for that Coastal ‘championship’ from last year.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Ha! 3 game winning streak, so you needed a bye week for the negativity to come oozing back out of your pores. Can’t wait to see your comments Saturday.

            Liked by 1 person

  12. Major, I hoping Syracuse fast tempo’s their defense right back on the field after Pitt gets multiple 3 and outs. Instead of the Pitt D gasping for air maybe we can have the Syracuse D doing the same.


  13. Biggest problem for newbies and those who haven’t played at the dome is…. that it’s Flat!

    Most football fields are beveled, rising in the center and falling off to the sides. Cuse is dead flat. It changes kicker angles, pass routes and pursuit angles. Hope Duzz has em practicing on a parking lot somewhere.

    We’ve missed many a FG up there due to the field shape oddity. Hope we are ahead big on second half!


    1. Yes he’s a good coach. I’d suspect that this year is something of a rebuilding year. I don’t know the ages / classes of his o-line but if they are young then his offense will be back to 450 YPG before long


  14. Not sure why I read all this talk about how hard it is to play up in the Dome and that crazy stuff happens there. Games versus Syracuse are no different to me than against other ACC schools.

    I think Pitt is 6-4 there since 2000 and that year Pitt had a chance to win it in OT and the kicker missed an easy FG. That happened against other teams (PSU, Duke in 2014) off the top of my head.

    When Pitt lost in 2012 that was due to dumb play calling at the end. Two years ago Pitt was up 14-3 and two personal-foul calls resulted in two Cuse TDs, but that Pitt team wasn’t very good with no QB.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pitt always has a tough time playing in Cuse. The noise is a problem. The field is different. Pitt plays down to their opponent. It is cursed.

    Games vs Cuse are different. They are one of Pitts oldest rivals and we are Big East.

    The ACC is trash for football. Imagine this Eastern Conference not controlled by Poopt Pants

    Penn State
    Virginia Tech


    1. UConn was 1-aa around that time I believe. Temple was so bad in the 90s/early 2000s that they got kicked out of the big east.


      1. Temple could beat Pitt today

        With conference money, UConn can be just as bad as BC. Better than Rutgers and they have money.


  16. In the B10, PSU cannot beat OSU; in the ACC, they could not beat Clem; in the B12, they could not beat OK. Do not even mention the SEC.


  17. I see this as a game Pitt should be able to win, and maybe even win comfortably, BUT only if its offense can avoid the stupid mistakes which seem to put the D off balance. No turnovers, and limited penalty yards allow Pitt’s strongest unit to give the O a chance for short fields. But throw interceptions, muff punts, or put “piggy” on the turf and suddenly its a game the ‘Cuse can win. I agree with MM, our DL should dominate.

    wbb – My goodness I didn’t realize that we had the same Mom. Your food recollections took me back to where I need to find a good Italian restaurant for dinner.

    Tex – Texas in an Eastern Conf? I think Louisville is as far west as we need to go, but also consider the strength of the BB in your hypo conference. Replace the ‘Horns with Virginia to keep the instate rivalry alive and you got something. If only . . . . . . .


    1. That was me being facieius

      Not sure if Virginia would ever join a northeast and Midwest conference. Southerners they are.

      Furthest west is Louisville

      But when football becomes semi pro with 30 schools, conference realignment will happen again

      Pitt would be a better fit outside the ACC.


      1. If nothing else Tx, Tex, drunk Tx, sober Tx and so on and so on……. you are a chameleon and one in a million!!


  18. Pitt finally puts it all together on Friday nite. The only thing that concerns me is not having Paris Ford in there playing for us during the first half.

    Our front seven defensive rush gets at least four QB sacks, with the back four DBs just as responsible for a couple of them because of good coverage. There will be so much pressure on the Orange QB, that he’s going to look like Danny DeVito out there by game’s end. Plus, I just get the feeling that if your head coach shares the same name as does the Flintstones’ pet dinosaur, then you deserve to get beat.

    Hail to Pitt!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Tex I’m with you, during my lifetime I think there is one more realignment and 3-4 conferences of 20-25 teams is inevitable, with players paid and TV revenues shared only among these elite conferences. I just hope Pitt is one of them, but frankly not a certainty, considering their lack of gameday and donation support.

    I can also see a system like soccer where teams that are not chosen are “promoted” in the elite group and others are dropped based on performance and TV appeal. Hate the idea, but there are plenty of things that I hate that have already happened.


    1. I prefer pitt to play with like minded schools. Non football factories. Academics before athletics.

      Pitt isn’t one of the 30 today. It will be based on the best brands and biggest fanbases. Schools that cheat and spend all their money on the front porch will love it.

      I’d much prefer to play northeast schools than southern schools due to rivalries, tradition, history and commutes.

      I long for the day of conference realignment for a level playing field and similar missions regarding the student athlete and sports entertainment.

      Pitt isn’t too serious about sports. It should be more serious. But it should never reach cult status and hundreds of millions in revenues.

      Let the pedos rake in millions of profit and let their zombie fans cheer and worship their false God. I want no part of that hence why I chose Pitt. I think for myself and don’t care what others think of my thoughts. I would not have been a compliant and good Nitter.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Its good to have “old Tex” back. You were getting much too agreeable over the past few weeks 😛


  20. I HOPE we play to our potential in this game. I do not BELIEVE we will. With Paris Ford out for the first half and Pitt being a first half team, there is a very good chance we will not have the lead at halftime. Does anyone believe we will make better adjustments at halftime than Syracuse?

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Big fan of Paris Ford but I’m sure he’s not the only reason PITT has won 4 games so far this year and Ford missing the first half will be the only reason if PITT would be trailing come Friday nite at halftime. This PITT football team has the chance to be special by the end of the year. Let’s hope it’s in a good way. I’m still lacking the confidence in the team to spout off considering the next game. Yet I do think it’s PITT’s game to win and not lose!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah man I am sorry to hear that. I wish WordPress comments worked at 100% all the time…alas they do not.


  22. Most catches this season without a drop:
    1. Michael Thomas: 53
    2. Chris Godwin: 43
    T-3. Austin Hooper: 42
    T-3. Austin Ekeler: 42
    5. Tyler Boyd: 40
    6. Darren Waller: 37


  23. I am already dreading watching this game. Pitt is the better team and should win. But these last few games have not been fun to watch and bad for my blood pressure. There is no team like pitt that tortures its fans.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. The rest of this season comes down to “good Kenny” or “bad Kenny.” If we see good Kenny the rest of the way we win out. If not it will be agonizing pitt football viewing for us tortured souls.


    1. Man up my friend pittman2003. The season will be over way too soon. This PITT team has a little something different in store for us beleaguered PITT fans.


  25. BTW Mike M, great write-up on the Syracuse preview. As for the impending prediction thread? Lot’s of pressure on the PITT football team to win this game….. This game could be a beautiful thing or ugly as all heck….


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