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Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Syracuse Orange Point Spread - Pick

Pittsburgh Panthers (2-2 SU, 2-2 ATS) vs. Syracuse Orange (1-3 SU, 1-3 ATS)
College Football Week 6
Date/Time:Friday October 5th, 2012. 7:00PM Eastern
Where: Carrier Dome Syracuse, N.Y.
by Jay, Football Handicapper,

Point Spread: Pit -3/Syr +3
Over/Under Total: OFF

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The Pittsburgh Panthers travel to the Carrier Dome to battle the Syracuse Orange in the opening act of a Friday Night college football double header on ESPN. The hosting Orange has suffered a tough start to the 2012 season with a disappointing 1-3 record. Syracuse suffered close losses to Northwestern, Minnesota and fell 42-29 to USC. The Orange's only win this season was a 28-17 victory over Stony Brook and they need a strong performance this Friday to build some confidence as they begin conference play.

The visiting Panthers also had a slow start to the college football season. Pittsburgh was embarrassed in the opener losing to Youngstown State 31-17 and was blown out the following week by Cincinnati 34-10 in a conference opener. The Panthers did right the ship with a big win over Virginia Tech 35-17 in convincing fashion and then delivered a 55-10 thumping over Gardner-Webb. Despite the slow start earlier this season, the Panthers appear to have solved the offensive woes that held the team back in the opening two contests. If the offense can keep their momentum going, the Panthers still have a chance to piece together a strong season.

Additionally, Pittsburgh has had the upper hand against Syracuse in recent years and will be favorites this Friday. The Panthers have won the last 5 straight over the Orange and 4 of the last 5 inside the Carrier Dome. Pittsburgh has won 9 of the last 10 meetings while sporting a solid 7-3 mark ATS. If you add in the fact that Syracuse has covered just once in their last 9 games, then Pittsburgh definitely holds the edge when comparing recent trends.

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Still, the Panthers have been inconsistent to say the least. On paper, Pittsburgh appears solid on both sides of the ball allowing just 324 yards per game on defense (27th in FBS) and gaining 486 yards per game on offense (29th in FBS). However, the defense failed to stop Youngstown State in the opener and the offense was awful in the Big East opener against Cincinnati. Turnovers also played a factor in those games but it was not until the Virginia Tech game that both sides of the football played to their true potential. The question now is can both sides of the ball continue to play well?

Defensively, the Panthers have a rather young team with just 5 returning starters from their 2011 group. Therefore, growing pains were mostly expected early this year. However, the offense returned 9 starters and has veteran guys at the skill positions which make the early season offensive troubles rather surprising. Senior QB Tino Sunseri has had a strong start completing 67.2% passing for 1,144 yards with 8 scores and 2 picks. Senior running back Ray Graham has posted 362 yards through the first 4 games as well. It is imperative that both players perform this Friday night against an average Syracuse defense. Graham and Sunseri are impact players and key to the Panthers success this season.

I feel confident that Pittsburgh will be able to move the football but I also think the Syracuse offense can have equal success. The Orange has proven they can move the football against some good football teams this year. Syracuse posted 41 points in the close loss to Northwestern and put up 29 points against USC's highly praised defense. In Syracuse's most recent outing two weeks ago to Minnesota, the Orange turned the ball over 4 times in route to a 17-10 loss. QB Ryan Nassib tossed two picks and the offense just could never get going.

Still, Nassib and the Syracuse offense have the potential to put big numbers on the scoreboard. Nassib has completed 66% passing for 1,367 yards with 10 scores and 5 picks this year. Senior wide out Marcus Sales has caught 27 passes for 382 yards with 5 scores through the first 4 games and become the Orange's biggest playmaker. Sales' racked up 100 yards receiving in each of Syracuse's first 3 games. In those 3 games, the Orange moved the football fairly well and Sales needs to have another big night this Friday to put Syracuse in contention for a conference victory.

Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Pittsburgh is the better team but anything can happen on the road this Friday inside the Carrier Dome. Consider this a small play on the Panthers -3

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