SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Despite another tough loss, Syracuse coach Dino Babers is sticking by his embattled quarterback Tommy DeVito. With the optimism of the first 10-win season since 2001 all but disappeared in the rear-view mirror, the Orange will host a Pittsburgh team Saturday that has won three straight since a seven-point loss to No. 7 Penn State on Sept. 14.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Pittsburgh -3.5
While DeVito is completing 65.5 percent of his passes for 1,534 yards and 12 touchdowns against five interceptions, he still pales in the eyes of Eric Dungey (3,622 total yards, 33 total touchdowns in 2019), the school's all-time passing leader with 9,340 yards and a holder of 25 school records. "(DeVito) is part coach," Babers said after the 16-10 loss to North Carolina State on Oct. 10 in which DeVito was sacked eight times behind a line with three first-year starters. "And the one thing about being the starting quarterback is everybody gets to second-guess you. Now, everybody doesn't matter, but some people do. ... I think we've got a fabulous quarterback. I think he's going to be really good. He's growing and he's getting better and better and better." Pittsburgh, which is coming off a bye week, got a 26-yard touchdown pass from Kenny Pickett to V'Lique Carter with 38 seconds remaining as the Panthers rallied in the fourth quarter for the third consecutive game (Central Florida, Delaware) to beat Duke 33-30 on Oct. 5. The Panthers beat the Orange 44-37 last season when Alex Kessman kicked a 45-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining to tie the game and Darrin Hall scored on a three-yard touchdown run in the first overtime.
ABOUT PITTSBURGH (4-2, 1-1 ACC)
Pickett, in his second season as a full-time starter after surviving his own bout with critics, finished 29-of-48 for 268 yards with three touchdowns against the Blue Devils, his fourth consecutive 220-yard performance after the junior threw for 200 yards once last season. Todd Sibley Jr. followed his 106-yard effort against Delaware in his first career start with 60 yards on 12 carries, The defense held the Blue Devils to 288 yards and forced six turnovers for the first time since 2011, including the first two interceptions of sophomore Paris Ford's career with one returned for a 26-yard touchdown.
ABOUT SYRACUSE (3-3, 0-2)
DeVito completed 29-of-39 passes for 300 yards and a TD, but the Orange couldn't overcome 12 penalties and a 16-0 deficit despite getting inside the Wolfpack 40 on the final drive before two penalties and a sack sealed the defeat. Trishton Jackson had a career-high nine receptions for 106 yards, including a two-yard touchdown catch, and the junior ranks fifth in the ACC in receptions per game (5.5) and receiving yards per game (83.2) and is tied for third in receiving TDs (six). Senior linebacker Andrew Armstrong recorded a career-high 14 tackles against N.C. State and intercepted a tipped ball to extend the Orange's streak of consecutive games with a turnover to 20 - the second-longest active streak behind Mississippi State's 22 games.
1. Pitt has won 14 of the last 17 meetings since 2002 and six of the last nine on the road, but home teams are 11-5 in the last 16 with wins in the last three contests. The favorite had won 15 straight in the series until Pitt's win last season.
2. Pitt DE Patrick Jones II had two sacks against Duke, including a strip-sack, and also forced a game-clinching turnover on Duke's final possession. Jones posted career-high marks with six tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles.
3. The Syracuse offense is averaging 25.5 points and 378 yards this season, down 14.7 points and 88.6 yards from 2018. DeVito has been sacked 26 times - 11 fewer than Dungey was all of last season.
PREDICTION: Pittsburgh 24, Syracuse 13