It’s Homecoming weekend on the Hill. When I left Syracuse, the football team was coming off its worst four-year stretch in history thanks in great part to the immortal Greg Robinson. Doug Marrone kept promising fans and the media that the Orange was going to be a winning program game, but no one knew if that was all talk. Two years later, it appears Marrone is well on his way to delivering on his promise. No, this team is not going to be competing with the Alabamas and Ohio States of the college football world, but hey, it’s off to a 4-1 (1-0 Big East) start and finally beat South Florida. If the thinness of SU’s roster doesn’t catch up with it, the city of Syracuse may finally be watching some December football.
This weekend’s game against Pittsburgh should be another good litmus test for the Orange. At 2-3, the Panthers do not look dominant as they have in past years. Still, the Orange will have its hands full with running backs Ray Graham and Dion Lewis, who are averaging 134 and 51.5 rushing yards per game respectively.
The Syracuse defense may very well be up for the challenge. Last Saturday, Scott Shafer’s unit was particularly impressive, holding USF to zero second-half points. SU also did this against Maine and Akron, but no one took it too seriously because it was Maine and Akron. The Cuse D did a great job pressuring BJ Daniels, keeping him in the pocket taking away his running game. The Orange is facing a similar quarterback this weekend in Pitt’s Tino Sunseri. Sunseri is averaging 192.2 passing yards per game, but is not known for having a strong arm. If Syracuse can stick to the same game plan it had against USF, it can really make a run at Sunseri and the Panthers. Watch out for his favorite target, Jon Baldwin, who is averaging 64.4 receiving yards per game.
The injury bug hasn’t just been hanging around Manley Field House and the Dome. Pittsburgh has also suffered some key losses this season, particularly on defense. Defensive end Greg Romeus (back) and linebacker Dan Mason (knee, out for the season) have both been sidelined with injuries. It could still be a physical game, however. Despite the injuries, Pitt’s D-Line is full of big, strong players weighing in at 230-240 pounds. Syracuse’s offensive line has shown signs of improvement and will have to continue to do so in order to protect Nassib from seeing the Dome turf more than he sees the end zone.
One more note: It will be interesting to see how many people are at the Dome. Syracuse is off to its best start in more than ten years and it is homecoming weekend. A good number of alums that will be in attendance have never seen Syracuse field a winning program, so there should be an added level of excitement for them. (I know the Orange isn’t the Pittsburgh Pirates of football with umpteen straight losing seasons, but a decent portion of the people who come back for homecoming are recent graduates.)
Prediction: Pitt: 24 SU: 21
As much as Syracuse’s defense has improved, I still think Ray Graham will be too difficult to handle. I think this will be a close one, though. Hopefully, the Orange Out works, though!
- SU last beat Pitt in a 38-31 double over-time thriller in 2004.
- Babe Ruth wasn’t the only one lighting up the Yankee Stadium scoreboard in 1923 (figuratively speaking, of course, because scoreboards didn’t light up back in 1923). Syracuse beat Pittsburgh in the first college football game ever played at Yankee Stadium. SU is 5-1 at Yankee Stadium. I am giving you all these stats because if all goes well, Syracuse has a chance to play in the Pinstripe Bowl, which will feature a Big East vs. Big 12 match-up. It will be played at Yankee Stadium.
- Max Suter was named Big East Defensive Player of the Week.
About the Author
Written by Beth Ann Clyde
I graduated from Syracuse University in 2009 and can count the number of times I witnessed the Orange win a football game on two hands.