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