If Big East football is your thing, and hypothetically, that could be the case for somebody out there, then one of the games you’ll be interested in seeing this weekend is the match between the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Syracuse Orangemen. Of course, ironically, both of these two teams will be found in the ACC next season, not the Big East, but that’s where they are for now. Here’s a preview of what to expect as the tangle for the last time in the conference.
This has been a crazy season for the now 2-2 Pittsburgh Panthers. They began the year with a dreadful loss at home against Youngstown State. They then traveled to Cincinnati and got blown out. However, they then found a way to go to Blacksburg and hand the then number 13 ranked Virginia Tech Hokies a beat down of their own, winning 35-17. After handling a gimme opponent in their last game, they’re back at 2-2, and one wonders which of these versions of Pittsburgh is real. The one that lost to Youngstown State at home, or the one that handled the Hokies on the road?
After two bad losses and two comeback wins, they are ranked basically middle of the pack on both sides of the ball, 59th in scoring at 29.3 points per game, and 54th in defense, 23 points per game. The offense is led by quarterback Tino Sunseri, a three year starter looking to put together his best season in his final hurrah. The Pittsburgh native has been cutting down on the mistakes this year, throwing eight touchdowns against just two interceptions. Compare that to last year, when the threw 10 TDs all season, and matched that with 11 picks.
Meanwhile, Syracuse has stumbled to their own poor start this season. They’re just 1-3 on the year, and while a loss at home against then number 2 USC, by 13 points, isn’t anything too bad, a 1 point loss in the first week of the season at home against Northwestern wasn’t what they needed. Their only win of the year came in a game against Stony Brook. Neither side of the ball has been impressive ,and the defense especially has been porous, surrendering 29.5 points per game, 81st in the country.
Looking ahead to the official numbers, Syracuse is a 1.5 point favorite at home. The line is a bit surprising given Pittsburgh’s two straight wins, and the performance on the road against the Hokies. The over/under has been set at 58.5 points thanks to two defenses which don’t exactly specialize in shutting down the opposition.
Pittsburgh has won 7 straight games in this series, including a road blowout victory two seasons ago. That trend continues here, and they make it 8 in a row over Syracuse. Pittsburgh won’t be contending for the national championship or anything of the like, but the win over Virginia Tech shows more of their true colors than not, and they’re a clear class above Syracuse.