Heading into Friday night's matchup against Big East rival Syracuse, Paul Chryst's Pittsburgh Panthers ride a momentous two-game winning streak that will translate to continued dominance against their conference foe.
After a loss to FCS subdivision Youngstown State in the opener and a drubbing on the road in Cincinnati, the Panthers looked like a lost team. The short week for the Bearcats game resulted in extra time to prepare for a home showdown against No. 13 Virginia Tech, and Pitt took full advantage of it.
In one of the more shocking results of the season, the Panthers dismantled the Hokies 35-17, and blew out Gardner-Webb 55-10 thereafter.
Stud receiver Devin Street put it best after the first win (via ESPN):
Those two losses were big for us. I think it was an eye-opener for us.
Meanwhile, the Orange have been victims of a rather difficult slate of games in 2012, which explains their 1-3 record. The home advantage of the Carrier Dome may not hold up too well against Pitt, who has won in four of its past five trips to Syracuse.
Pitt has also won nine of the past 10 meetings overall.
According to oddshark.com, though, Syracuse is still slightly favored by 1.5, which is surprising considering the matchups the Panthers present.
The combination of 6'5" Mike Shanahan and the 6'4" NFL prospect, Street, will be too much for the Orange to overcome. This may have been considered an "easy" game in light of their difficult schedule, but the Panthers are scolding hot and rested coming off of a bye.
To be balanced, both teams are coming off of a bye, eager to notch their first conference victories. Speaking of balanced, both teams have great passing games, but the Panthers clearly have the edge on the ground, with the duo of Ray Graham and stellar freshman Rushel Shell in the backfield.
In spite of that, the quarterback duel is set to be very exciting.
Senior Tino Sunseri has proven he can get the job done with his aforementioned big targets on the outside, but the arm talent of his Orange counterpart Ryan Nassib will also be showcased.
Pitt also has the edge on the back end, with underrated, two-time All-Big East free safety Jarred Holley. In the Virginia Tech game, Holley accounted for one of the three picks of Hokies QB Logan Thomas, as Holley is playing at a high level once again for the Panthers.
According to Nassib's scouting report on CBSSports.com, he tends to force throws and make poor decisions, and with a ball hawk in the secondary like Holley, Nassib is bound to make a few poor reads.
Both universities may be more widely known for their basketball prowess, but each are building respectable football programs nonetheless.
Big East pride is on the line, and Syracuse is ready to show it finally has a competitive football team after a rough go at it during Greg Robinson's infamous tenure.
It will be yet another learning experience for the Orange and a tough loss to swallow at home.
Sunseri's 8:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio will help PItt win the turnover battle and win its third-consecutive game in yet another triumph over the embattled Orange.
Final score prediction: Pittsburgh 24, Syracuse 21