Syracuse (4-2, 1-1) tried to blitz Sunseri to get him uncomfortable just as the Orange did a week ago against B.J. Daniels, sacking him four times and intercepting him twice in a 13-9 victory. Not much worked.
Tino Sunseri had a huge game for the Panthers, throwing for four touchdowns and zero interceptions. The game would be over by halftime. Pitt held a 28-7 lead going into the intermission. It got uglier in the second half when Ricky Gary's 80 yard pick six of Ryan Nassib ended any thoughts of an improbable Orange comeback.
The loss ended a three-game win streak for Syracuse. Pittsburgh was having a forgettable season up to the Syracuse game with a 2-3 record. The win against the Orange began the start of a three-game win streak for Pitt. Sunseri would throw 43.8% of his season touchdown total in the first two games of the streak. He faded after that game and so did the Panthers. They finished the rest of the regular season 2-2 and only won a share of the Big East (and not the one that sends you to the BCS). Syracuse went 3-3 over the rest of the regular season but made and won a bowl game.
This season, the Syracuse-Pitt tilt is the final game of the regular season for both teams on December 3 at Heinz Field. Syracuse overachieved last season but has a favorable schedule this season and should still be a bowl team. Pitt is rolling out Todd Graham's "high octane" offense in 2011. If the Panthers rolled over the Orange with Wannstedt's offense last year at Syracuse, what will a high scoring offense be able to achieve at home? Well, I don't think we'll see the same result as last year. Syracuse will be improved even though it might not appear in the final score of each game. The defense will certainly be stronger with each season that Syracuse moves away from the disastrous Greg Robinson era. How well Nassib can play will be the key to the Orange trying to repeat an eight win season.
The week following the Backyard Brawl is probably a good time to catch Pitt as they will be a little worn on defense from having to try to stop Dana Holgorsen's West Virginia offense. The loser of the Pitt-West Virginia game will have likely also lost their shot at the Big East title. Syracuse could come into the game against Pitt trying to make a bowl or trying to improve their bowl bid and would have more to play for. I still think that Pitt will win the game. However, I don't think that it will be a blowout like last season.
#8 - Connecticut at West Virginia