PITTSBURGH PANTHERS (2-2)
at SYRACUSE ORANGE (1-3)
Kickoff: Friday, 7:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Pittsburgh -1½, Total: 57½
A pair of Big East schools bound for the ACC lock horns on Friday night when Pittsburgh visits Syracuse.
The Panthers have won seven straight meetings (5-2 ATS) with the Orange, and were able to force six Syracuse turnovers in last year’s 33-20 win. Pittsburgh was outscored 65-27 in its first two games of 2012, but beat Virginia Tech and Gardner-Webb by a combined 90-27 score in its two most recent games. Tino Sunseri, who threw four touchdowns in his last trip to the Carrier Dome, has tossed 6 TD passes during the two-game win streak. The Orange have lost eight straight games (1-7 ATS) to FBS opponents, but QB Ryan Nassib ranks eighth in the nation with 360 total YPG.
Who will win this final Big East battle between the schools? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts picks for every key college football game throughout the 2012 season.
Sunseri leads the Big East in passing efficiency (166.80), completing 67.2% of his passes for 1,144 yards, 8 TD and 2 INT. He has also been very accurate in two career starts against the Orange, connecting on 42-of-58 passes (72.4%) for 540 yards, 5 TD and 1 INT. RB Ray Graham was unable to play in last year’s meeting with Syracuse, but had a solid performance in his previous visit to the Carrier Dome, gaining 75 yards and a touchdown on just 14 touches (11 carries, 3 catches). In his past three games in 2012, Graham has racked up 382 yards and four touchdowns. Pittsburgh’s defense has also been a big part of the current win streak, holding Virginia Tech to 59 rushing yards on 26 carries, then limiting Gardner-Webb to 127 total yards and forcing seven turnovers.
Syracuse has been very careless with the football this season, committing nine turnovers in its three defeats, including four miscues in last week’s loss at Minnesota. The Orange running game has also been underwhelming in 2012, gaining just 381 yards on 104 carries (3.7 YPC). Nassib has already thrown for 10 TD this season, but is coming off a subpar game against the Gophers, completing 21-of-31 passes for 228 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT. WR Marcus Sales also had his worst game of the 2012 season against the Gophers, catching just two passes for 32 yards, but extending his scoring streak to four games. Sales started his season with three straight 100-yard efforts. Syracuse’s defense failed to force a turnover last week for the first time in 2012, but held the Gophers to 17 points, 337 total yards and 2.6 yards per carry. Last year, the Panthers (minus Ray Graham) rushed for a paltry 74 yards on 35 carries (2.1 YPC) in the win over the Orange.