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Syracuse Orange vs. Pittsburgh Panthers Preview and Predictions 09-19-2020

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No. 25 Pittsburgh is part of the national rankings as it opens ACC play with a visit from Syracuse on Saturday afternoon.

However, Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi isn't the least bit impressed as the latest poll included the removal of nine teams from the Big Ten and Pac-12 due to their conferences not playing football at the moment.

"I don't really care about it," Narduzzi told reporters. "Doesn't matter. I don't want our kids to look at it. I'd rather be disrespected, play with a grudge and chip on our shoulder. We know what kind of football team we have in here. It doesn't matter what people think on the outside. It's what we do on the field.

"With less conferences out there, it doesn't matter. Less people playing, matters less this year than a year ago. Our job is to go out and win football games on Saturdays."

The Panthers (1-0, 0-0 ACC) opened their season with a 55-0 thrashing of overmatched FCS program Austin Peay. Syracuse (0-1, 0-1 ACC) had a much tougher first foe and lost 31-6 at then-No. 18 North Carolina.

Despite their game-long offensive ineptness, the Orange trailed just 10-6 entering the fourth quarter before the Tar Heels hammered them with three fourth-quarter touchdowns.

"A lot of times we shot our own selves in the foot," Syracuse coach Dino Babers said. "That's a good football team. We knew we had to really do things right to win down there in that situation, but I thought for three quarters it was a heck of a football game."

The Orange allowed 463 yards against the Tar Heels but recorded two interceptions. Junior safety Andre Cisco grabbed the 13th of his career, the most among active FBS players and tied for fourth in school history with Walt Slovenski (1946-48).

Cisco has picked off passes in four straight games dating back to last season.

Panthers senior quarterback Kenny Pickett will surely keep tabs on where Cisco is at all times. Pickett began his season by completing 14 of 20 passes for 277 yards and one touchdown in the shellacking of Austin Peay.

Pickett needs 147 passing yards to become the seventh player in Pitt history to reach 6,000 career passing yards.

The Panthers allowed just 146 yards -- and just 1 net yard on the ground -- in the opener but their pass rush might be the biggest component against the Orange.

Last season, Pittsburgh recorded nine sacks in a 27-20 victory at Syracuse and the Panthers are again expected to try and make life difficult for Orange junior quarterback Tommy DeVito.

DeVito was just 13-of-31 passing for 112 yards against North Carolina and was sacked seven times. DeVito had a team-high 30 rushing yards and Syracuse totaled just 202 overall.

A struggling offense combined with a defense that wilted isn't a good combination. But Syracuse senior defensive end Kingsley Jonathan saw enough good things from his side of the ball to expect improvement this Saturday.

"We've just got to come together as a defense and finish the game, just finish the game off strong and finish it how we started it," Jonathan told reporters. "If guys keep running around and making plays, we'll fix it and be ready to go."

Narduzzi is expecting a battle. He points out that the Orange are in a better situation than his club due to the quality of their respective first-game opponents.

"Obviously Syracuse had a top-25 team they played. We didn't have a top-25 team," Narduzzi said. "I think to their advantage they've been in a war already. They were in a war for three quarters. They're probably better prepared for Saturday than we are at noon."

Pittsburgh has won 15 of the past 18 meetings in a series that dates back to 1916.

--Field Level Media

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Key Players to Watch

Stadium

Heinz Field
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
Capacity: 65,050

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Last Injuries

Pittsburgh Panthers

  • Jake Zilinskas

    Undisclosed
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Zilinskas missed the last game with an unspecified injury. It has yet to be established if he will face NC State on Saturday.

  • Lucas Krull

    Illness
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Krull missed the last game after coming into contact with COVID-19, and it is unknown if he will pass protocol in time for Saturday's contest against NC State.

  • Kyi Wright

    Undisclosed
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Wright sat out the last game due to an undetermined injury, and it remains to be seen if he will dress for Saturday's tilt against NC State.

  • Habakkuk Baldonado

    Lower Body
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Baldonado missed the previous game due to a lower-body injury, and it has yet to be established if he will take part in Saturday's matchup against NC State.

  • Wendell Davis

    Lower Body
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Davis sat out the last game due to a lower-body injury, and it is unknown if he will face NC State on Saturday.

  • Gabe Houy

    Arm
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Houy departed the last game with a right arm injury, and it is unknown if he will suit up against NC State on Saturday.

  • Taysir Mack

    Undisclosed
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Mack has missed the previous two games with an unspecified ailment, and it is unknown if he will play against Louisville on Saturday.

  • Rashad Weaver

    Illness
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Weaver has missed the previous two contests after testing positive for COVID-19. It is uncertain what his status will be for Saturday's tilt against Louisville.

Syracuse Orange

  • Andre Cisco

    Undisclosed
    Ques Oct 10 | questionable

    Cisco sat out the last game with an unspecified injury, and it is unknown if he will be available Oct. 10 against Duke.

  • Rob Hanna

    Head
    Ques Oct 10 | questionable

    Hanna left the previous game due to a head injury, and it is unclear if he will take part in Oct. 10 versus Duke.

  • Tommy Devito

    Undisclosed
    day-to-day | questionable

    Devito was forced from Saturday's game with an unspecified injury. His return is unknown.