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ACC Game of the Week: Pittsburgh at Syracuse

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Aaron Donald and Pittsburgh look to make it eight of nine over Syracuse. (Photo: Mark Konezny, USA TODAY Sports)

Who: Pittsburgh Panthers (5-5, 2-4 ACC) at Syracuse Orange (5-5, 3-3 ACC)
When: Saturday, November 23rd at 12:30 P.M. EST (ACC Network)
Where: Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY
Last Week: Pittsburgh was edged by North Carolina 34-27; Syracuse was routed by Florida State 59-3

Pittsburgh and Syracuse will meet for the first time as members of the ACC on Saturday as the Panthers visit the Carrier Dome. Both teams will come in with 5-5 records and the winner of Saturday’s contest will become bowl-eligible. Pittsburgh looks to extend its streak of consecutive bowl appearances to six while Syracuse will be looking for a second straight bowl invitation.

After an emotional come-from-behind victory to beat Notre Dame, Pittsburgh nearly came from 24 points down to defeat North Carolina last week. The Panthers scored 24 unanswered points to erase a 27-3 deficit, but Ryan Switzer’s 61-yard punt return for a touchdown with under five minutes to play propelled the Tar Heels to victory. Pittsburgh has lost three straight in conference.

Syracuse is coming off of an embarrassing loss at Florida State, but has won five of eight entering Saturday’s contest after an 0-2 start. The Orange’s last two losses however, have come by a combined 115-3 margin.

Saturday’s contest will likely come down to the running game and which quarterback makes the fewest mistakes. Syracuse gave up 225 yards rushing to Florida State a week ago and allowed the Seminoles to average nearly 12 yards-per-carry on the ground. Earlier in the season, Syracuse gave up nearly 400 yards rushing to Georgia Tech.

That could mean a big day for the backfield combination of Pittsburgh junior running back Isaac Bennett and freshman James Conner. Pittsburgh however, ranks just 112th nationally in rushing and just 13th in the ACC.

With senior quarterback Tom Savage at the helm, Pittsburgh has done most of its damage through the air this season. The receiving combination of senior Devin Street and freshman Tyler Boyd is one of the best in the ACC. Each have more than 800 yards receiving this year and the two have combined for 13 touchdown receptions.

For a second straight week, Syracuse sophomore safety Durell Eskridge will have his hands full. Eskridge had an interception in the end zone last week against the Seminoles and leads the Orange with four on the season in addition to being Syracuse’s leading tackler.

Since sophomore Terrel Hunt replaced Drew Allen as the Syracuse starting quarterback, the Orange have played much better. Hunt is a dual-threat under center, but Syracuse’s biggest offensive weapon is tailback Jerome Smith. Smith ranks fifth in the ACC with 706 yards rushing this season and is tied for third with 10 rushing touchdowns.

Tasked with slowing down the Syracuse ground game will be senior defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Donald is tied for the ACC lead with 10 sacks and four forced fumbles. Donald also leads the conference with 22 tackles for loss.

Syracuse edged Pittsburgh in the Carrier Dome 14-13 a season ago to snap a seven-game losing streak to the Panthers. In true home games this season, Syracuse is 3-1. It will have been more than two months since Pittsburgh last won on the road when the teams take the field on Saturday.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 19, Syracuse 17

Other Games Around the ACC
Saturday, November 23rd

Old Dominion at North Carolina – 12:00 P.M. EST (RSN)
Since a 1-5 start, North Carolina has won four straight and can become bowl-eligible with a win at home on Saturday. The Tar Heels can also clinch a share of the Coastal division crown by beating Duke in the season finale. While Old Dominion has an 8-3 record, the Monarchs’ only win over a FBS school came two weeks ago at Idaho.
Prediction: Old Dominion 20, North Carolina 52

Duke at Wake Forest – 12:00 P.M. EST (ESPN2)
Duke has won six straight and is alone in first place in the ACC Coastal. Junior wide receiver Jamison Crowder ranks second in the ACC with 956 yards receiving for the Blue Devils. Since losing wide receiver Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest has managed just three points in two games.
Prediction: Duke 34, Wake Forest 16

The Citadel at #7 Clemson – 12:00 P.M. EST (ESPN3)
Last week, Tajh Boyd became the ACC’s career leader in touchdown passes and will be playing his final game at home on Saturday. The Tigers need a victory over the Citadel to clinch a third straight 10-win season. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins leads the ACC with 1,086 yards receiving.
Prediction: The Citadel 7, Clemson 63

Virginia at Miami – 12:00 P.M. EST (ESPNU)
Miami will look to bounce back from a three-game losing streak and a 41-40 loss to Virginia last season. Over the last three games, Miami is giving up more than 535 yards and more than 43 points. Virginia has lost seven in a row and is one of two ACC teams still yet to notch a win in conference.
Prediction: Virginia 14, Miami 45

East Carolina at N.C. State – 12:30 P.M. EST (ACC Network)
Led by quarterback Shane Carden, who ranks fourth in the nation with 29 touchdown passes, East Carolina will arrive in Raleigh with an 8-2 record. The Pirates won at Chapel Hill earlier this season and will look to beat the Tar Heels and Wolfpack in the same season for the first time ever. Since a 3-1 start, N.C. State has lost six straight.
Prediction: East Carolina 34, N.C. State 20

Alabama A&M at Georgia Tech – 1:30 P.M. EST (ESPN3)
Georgia Tech will be looking to bounce back from a loss to Clemson as it hosts Alabama A&M on Saturday. The Yellow Jackets’ triple-option attack is led by by running back David Sims, who has 11 total touchdowns this season.
Prediction: Alabama A&M 10, Georgia Tech 56

Idaho at #2 Florida State – 3:30 P.M. EST (ESPNU)
Led by freshman quarterback and Heisman hopeful, Jameis Winston, Florida State has scored at least 41 points in every game. The FSU defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown in 10 quarters although it has scored three of its own in the last two weeks. Idaho is just 1-9 and has lost five straight.
Prediction: Idaho 0, Florida State 66

Boston College at Maryland – 3:30 P.M. EST (RSN)
Both Boston College and Maryland became bowl-eligible with victories last week. Maryland went to Blacksburg and topped Virginia Tech in overtime while Boston College got a school-record 339 yards rushing from senior running back Andre Williams in a victory over N.C. State. Williams leads the nation with 1,810 yards rushing and the ACC with 14 touchdowns. BC however, is just 1-3 on the road this season.
Prediction: Boston College 17, Maryland 24

Mike Ferguson is an ACC staff writer for the College Sports Network and can be followed on Twitter @MikeWFerguson. Also, be sure to LIKE College Sports Net’s ACC page on Facebook!

 
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