Thanks to Mike Williams choice to leave the team, Pitt now sits in a great position to win this game a bit more easily than we should have expected to. I just hope that the coaches and team aren't over looking Syracuse the way I am. Last year at the Carrier Dome Syracuse took it to us in the 1st half before falling apart in the 2nd half.
This year Syracuse has much better coaching and more talent across the field than we have seen before. It is hard to get a good estimate of exactly how good of a coach that Doug Marrone is, but I can tell you one thing, he is certainly a whole hell of a lot better than Greg Robinson was.
The one thing that should help Pitt this week is that Greg Paulus has absolutely sucked since Big East season has started for the Cuse. He's been bad enough that they've switched to backup Ryan Nassib for a few series to get the offense started. Now with Mike Williams off the roster, their next leading receiver is Donte Davis who has managed to get a solid 180 some yards over the first 8 games of the season. Now Syracuse is going to have to rely on mediocre running back Delone Carter to carry the offense until someone else can step up and help the passing game. I think Marcus Sales is talented enough to help, but I don't think that anyone will make that big of a dent for them the rest of the season.
Everyone had to expect that it would take a while to rebuild Syracuse after Greg Robinson did such a fantastic job of tearing them down. Now the job is just getting a bit harder. Marrone can come out with a game plan to sling the ball around all game long, but the fact is Paulus isn't talent enough to do it and the receivers are unproven to the point where they shouldn't scare anyone, even our below average (but improving) secondary.
Syracuse will need to try and run the ball until they can get things figured out which is not the best idea against our defense. The line should be able to snuff all of it out and if we let Adam Gunn spy the quarterback this game as we did against USF that should contain any runs by Paulus. That is simply all we will have to do to shut them down because their inability to pass will force them to play into our hands.
Looking at their defense it is hard to accurately judge them. They didn't let Cincy run all over them like I thought they would, but they also had a tough time stopping Northwestern from scoring, so who knows what team will show up. I do believe that we have the 2nd best offense they will see (Only Cincy is better, not PSU go take that Nitters). With that said, we have by far the best running game they will see all season. I think they will get a healthy dose of Dion followed up with some extra pounding with Ray Graham. That is a combo that they have no chance of stopping.
I'll let Jones stick to the predictions, but there is no way we should lose this game, especially at home heading into the biggest game of the season vs Notre Dame on national television.