As I said earlier this week on Twitter, Syracuse leads the nation this week in backhanded compliments. It's uncanny. Name the national writer or source, and I guarantee you their piece on SU football went like this.
"Congrats to Doug Marrone and Syracuse for a great start! 4-1, that's amazing! Of course, three of those wins were against nobodies and now we know South Florida isn't good (how do we know? Cause they lose to Syracuse!). This week the Orange get the chance to prove their for real by beating Pitt, but we know they won't. And even if they do, this will just prove Pitt is terrible. How will we know? Cause they lost to Syracuse! But seriously, Orange, thumbs up you guys..."
Whatever. Such is life for SU football fans (and Big East fans in general). Until we beat Alabama 50-0 in the Fiesta Bowl, no one's going to honestly believe we're back. Our wins will be downgraded. Our success will be muted. Our rejuvenation will be second-guesses.
Like I said, whatever. Cause we're 4-1 and you're team isn't. Sorry.
We'd like to be 5-1. I know we're all excited and looking at Pitt's 2-3 record we've got visions of sugar fairy plum drops dancing in our heads, but the truth is this is going to be a tough game. I think we have a chance to win it, and I think Pitt knows that, but it's going to be tough. It would be a shame to "prove" the critics right as well as lose all our momentum. Let's not do that.
You know what would help in that matter? A sold-out, packed Dome filled with orange t-shirts. Earlier this week it looked unlikely but now it seems like common sense has prevailed. Estimates are rolling in anywhere between 43-49K. Regardless, the fanbase mobilized this week and it looks like its going to pay off. Good work.
On to the game itself, where Dave Rahme has outlined the keys to victory for the Orange. As you probably assumed, being "physical" is a big part of it.
Wannstedt spent a lot of time in the NFL. He has built the Panthers in the image of a typical NFL team. They are big and physical on both sides of the ball and try to impose their will on foes. There is nothing fancy about it. No gimmicks, no spread, no option. SU must stand up to the challenge and match Pitt’s physical style to have a shot.
The Orange corners will have their hands full with Jonathan Baldwin and the Pitt receivers. Rahme has a great read on how 2009's biggest weakness has become one of 2010's biggest strengths. Scott Shafer's press corner system took a lot of getting used to, but the players have finally figured it out.
"Guys like Phillip Thomas and Shamarko Thomas understand the system now," Shafer said. "So they can play and you can feel confident they’re going to get all the checks and adjustments. The maturity of those kids, as well as Max Suter, has given us the luxury of playing Holmes at corner."
"Me and Da’Mon, we know we can run with any receiver they put out there," Holmes said. "That’s not an issue, so that confidence is there. Basically, it’s just going out there and doing what we can do."
The biggest thing SU can do on the field? Treat this game like any other game on the schedule, just like Beckett Wales says...
"We're just treating this week like every other game that we have to play," freshman tight end Beckett Wales said. "It's just the next game. And that's how we're treating it."
But what may come as a surprise is the fact that several of the veterans who were here for the majority of that losing streak to the Panthers are subscribing to a similar ideology entering the weekend. With Syracuse staring into the face of a 5-1 start for the first time in more than a decade, Saturday's matchup against Pittsburgh (noon, Big East Network) at the Carrier Dome is being hyped as anything but "just another game."
You guys play like its any other game, let the fans worry about hyping ourselves up. We got that covered.