2021 Season – Syracuse Orange

In what seems months ago (because it was), I had predicted  that Pitt would be 8 – 4 in regular season play. At that time, I expected Pitt to lose to Clemson, Miami, and North Carolina. I also expected to lose one to either Tennessee or Virginia Tech. Totally happy to be wrong.

As we all know, Pitt clinched the ACC Coastal Division with a 48 – 38 Senior Day home win over the Virginia Cavaliers. Pitt is now 9 – 2 ( 6 – 1 conference). Three games to go. Play them one game at a time.

Next up is Pitt’s regular season finale against the Syracuse Orange. Syracuse is coming off a 17 – 41 loss to NC State. After the first nine weeks of the season, Syracuse stood at 5 – 4 ( 2 – 3 conference). Bowl eligibility was in sight. A significant improvement over their 1 – 10  2020 campaign. Head Coach Dino Babers hot seat was rapidly cooling.

Midway through the week 3 game (Albany), Babers replaced off injured but long starting QB Danny Tommy DeVito with transfer QB Garrett Shrader. Through the next six games Syracuse went 3 – 3 with all three losses by 3 points each. For a Syracuse football fan, life was looking good and the future looked bright.

Then came the bye week and the last two game where Syracuse was outscored 20 – 82. Fans are unhappy again. Babers is back on the hot seat. But can Syracuse afford the buyout. To add insult to injury, nine players have already entered the Transfer Portal (TP) since the start of fall practice. They include ex-starting QB Danny Tommy DeVito and one of the backup scholarship QB’s on the roster. (I believe the Orange now have only two scholarship QB’s plus walk-ons.) also gone are 2019 All ACC receiver Taj Harris and a 2021 TE recruit who did not want to block. In dramatic irony, he is listed as the 15’th best TP entry in the first 24/7 top ranking of 2022 entries. (Another Syracuse player is ranked #14. Taj Harris is #3)

College Football Transfer Portal: Initial Top 25 rankings for the 2022 cycle (247sports.com)

According to the above article, over 400 players have entered the TP since 8/1/2021.

On to the stats review. ACC standings and Syracuse and Pitt’s year to date schedules.

Nine teams now bowl eligible. Three more can make bowl eligibility with season ending wins (including Syracuse). Once again the ACC bowl tie-ins.  2021 ACC Bowl Affiliations – Atlantic Coast Conference (theacc.com)

Common opponents are Clemson and Virginia Tech.

Here are the NCAA stats for team and individual comparison. Those highlighted in yellow are what I consider are Syracuse advantages. I will be highlighting TP pick-ups in green and those who have entered the portal in light orange. A light blue/gray are injured players.

Syracuse rests their hat on a strong rushing attack and a stout defense. JaCobian Morgan (leader in passing efficiency) is the Orange backup QB.

On to the individual stats. Of course, starting with the QB’s.

If you believed Kenny Pickett was a bad or average QB in the 2018-2020 time frame, meet Garrett Shrader. He is ranked #104 out of 108 NCAA eligible QB’s. I do not blame Taj Harris for entering the TP. He wants to go pro and Syracuse offense does not give him an opportunity to showcase his skills.

On to the running back and wide receivers.

Shrader makes up for his current lack of passing skills by being a perfect companion to Sean Tucker in running the ball. I wonder if Shrader could become Syracuse’s version of Virginia’s “Football Player” Keytaon Thompson. Both have something in common. They were both recruited by Mississippi State (Thompson 2017, Shrader 2019) as QB’s.

Games played and started for offensive linemen.

How are they protecting the QB and opening holes for the running backs?

Warning!!! Warning!!! Warning!!!  New Chart Alert

Currently the NCAA considers “sacks” as a separate statistic. Sacks are also a component of the “Tackles for Loss” statistic. Both stats are ranked on a per game.

This new chart is not my own idea but is built off a statement a color commentator made in one of the games I watched last weekend. The announcer made a comment on the number of sacks a team had allowed. The color man said something like “it’s not as bad as you think considering how much they pass”. I checked into and these are the results.

Louisville has allowed the fewest sacks in the ACC. Per Chart A, Louisville and Syracuse are dominantly rushing teams. Pitt and Virginia are more pass happy. Virginia is more than pass happy, their engaged to be married.

Since the NCAA includes “sacks allowed” as a “run” attempt, I added sacks as a separate line item and subtracted sacks from the run column. This is shown in Chart  B.

Chart C brings it all together on which OLine better protects their QB. Louisville, of this group, is still #1 but Pitt is a very strong second. Virginia looks better than expected and Syracuse is just bad at almost 10% of adjusted total pass attempts resulting in sacks.

Pitt’s Oline is definitely better in pass protection. Now I need to refine Tackles for Loss (TFL) to show only the run portion of TFL.

Sorry about the long winded explanation. I like to show my work to get to a conclusion. And I like having fun with numbers.

Some defensive individual stats. From ESPN team stats and compared to NCAA statistics for accuracy.

I used the top 17 in tackles for both Pitt and Syracuse.

In total, Syracuse has 39 total team members who made a defensive stat. Nine of them were offensive players.  Pitt numbers are 46 total with six offensive players. Which team is getting more actual game snap players involved?

I expect Syracuse’s LB Mikel Jones and DE Roscoe Cody to be All ACC team selections.

Last but not least, turnover margins.

In South Carolina high school football action, Davis BeVille’s Greenville High School and Nate Temple’s Abbeville High School continue their march to state championships.

This year. marks the first time since the 1920’s that Greenville High has made it past the second round of the state playoffs.

This game will be a matchup of the stout Syracuse defense against the potent Pitt high powered offense. Syracuse offense is run oriented (#7 – 231 YPG). Pitt’s run defense is ranked #9 in rushing yards allowed per game. Syracuse pass offense is anemic gaining less yardage than Pitt’s rushing attack.                                                Pitt wins 38 – 13

Happy Thanksgiving from Joe L.!

Reed`s note: May I add that it has been heartwarming to see everyone chip in to keep The Pitt POV up and running. As Joe says below; it is hard to describe to someone who isn’t already a reader on here. Just this afternoon I was in a gym and got into a conversation with a guy who went to Pitt. As I introduced myself he looked a bit startled and asked if I wrote a blog. He then told me he has a college classmate who calls him all the time to talk about the POV articles. He was really happy so I asked if he wanted to buy it! My thanks on this day to you all…and to my son, who is a true fighter and a great friend.

Its hard to believe that we are approaching the final regular season! Seems like just yesterday a group of POVers were sitting on the patio at Meadia Heights Golf Club in Lancaster, regaling one another with tales of monster drives, putts rolling off greens and fortuitous bounces…then turning to prognostications about the upcoming football season.

Well, no matter how the next three games go….

Wait just one minute! The BS detector in my office just started chirping. Its either a bad battery or  sharp as it ever was 😉

Actually, how the next three games go is of vital importance in determining just what kind of season we’ve all witnessed this fall. Coach Narduzzi said it perfectly yesterday in his press conference when he said something to the effect of not walking into a living and bragging that the team was ranked in November. Its how one finishes that matters. Even his harshest critics must concede that he’s on the mark there.

I was (and to be honest still) a bit concerned that he is glancing past Dino Baber’s squad. Hopefully his remarks to the contrary have permeated into the minds of the entire staff and players.

Otherwise, we will see something akin to the Boston College loss in 2019 when AJ Dillon marched right through Pitt’s nationally ranked rushing defense and Kenny Pickett had zero TDs. The highest scorer for Pitt in that game was Alex Kessman. Anyone else remember that dung-heap of a game?

This year’s Syracuse team bring that same kind of game and like BC in 2019, it needs the game to become bowl eligible.  I hope our guys are getting in the right frame of mind as they enjoy Thanksgiving together before heading north. I understand that Jordan Addison’s mom is coming to Pgh to cook for Jordan and his buddies… guessing there will be other moms doing the same, thankful to spend time with their sons and teammates.

Im very thankful to have “spent time” with Jordan and his buddies this fall. What a season it has been – so far. But, also thankful for:

  • This space, where we gather to share thoughts, joy and disappointment with one another. Thanks to Reed, Richard, Erie and Maestro for keeping it going. It’s a unique place – one that is really hard to describe to other people without getting a puzzled stare in return.
  • The health of many of us who have encountered and endured health challenges in the past year. A wink/hug to Brother Ike and prayers/appreciation for places like Johns Hopkins so that folks have a chance to win their fights.
  • Red5A and its cornerstones, Fran and Wolfe. They are the type of fans you want to hang with. But then, if you have been there you know what I mean. The Red5A regulars who show up game in and game out and make games a can’t miss event. Gordon, Major, Annie, Rich, Bill/Lisa, Scooter, PittPT, Erie and his Mrs., Kman&co., BigAl and LizL… who’d I miss?! The  UVA pregame was nothing short of a Fransgiving. Nice way to finish the home season.
  • The POV celebrities & others who make the journey when they can. Dan, Richard, The B’s: Jeannie and Biggie, Mattintheville, AtlPanther and newly retired ChrisL…who’d I miss?!
  • Those cinnamon rolls that Farmers has been feeding me. Not exactly in line with the ideals of my intermittent fasting regimen, but everything in moderation – including moderation. Weekdays are for salads after all – haha
  • The conscience posters of the POV who keep it real and ground us when we’ve ingested too much Pitt helium. Can’t debate a point without other POV’s. And thankful for the adult-like debate that germinated post-lockdown this fall.
  • The return to relevance of the FB program. Its nice to be part of the national discussion again.

And thankful for the best tweet of the year…

Happy Thanksgiving to you all and your families.

HAIL TO PITT!