Pitt vs. Syracuse: Panthers could face tough test against Orange

Justin K. Aller - Getty Images

In what will be the schools' final game as members of the Big East Conference, Pitt and Syracuse will do battle in the Carrier Dome on Friday night.

At first glance, all signs point to a Pitt victory. The Panthers have won nine of the last ten games against Syracuse and the Orange have really struggled against Pitt lately. Even more to the point, Syracuse is 1-3 on the year with the lone win coming against FCS foe Stony Brook. But a more careful inspection shows that Pitt could be in for a stiff test from Syracuse.

The Orange's three losses have come at the hands of USC, Minnesota, and Northwestern. Those teams are a combined 12-2 on the year and Syracuse played all three tough. They lost to Northwestern by a single point, fell to Minnesota by a touchdown, and were competitive with the Trojans before fading in the fourth quarter. Syracuse has certainly been a victim of what appears to be a tough non-conference schedule.

Pitt is also going to facing the Orange on the road in the Carrier Dome. The stadium is already a noisy venue, but with the game on Friday night, it could be an even more raucous atmosphere.

Another reason Panther fans should be wary is that Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib has carved up opposing defenses this season. He is second in the nation in passing yardage and has ten touchdowns to five interceptions. Nassib has been even better in the fourth quarter of games, tossing six touchdowns to no picks. If the game comes down to the wire, don't expect him to fold.

All of that said, this is clearly a game Pitt can win. The Panthers appear to have turned their season around with a blowouts against ranked Virginia Tech and FCS school Gardner-Webb, while Syracuse hasn't been able to close out games. But that doesn't mean Pitt will have an easy time of things come Friday night.

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