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It’ll be a 12:20 p.m. kickoff for Syracuse and Pittsburgh on Oct. 6

The classic 12:20-er in Pittsburgh awaits Syracuse, which first has to get through the gauntlet known as Clemson this weekend.

Pittsburgh v Syracuse
Steve Ishmael with a key TD grab in Syracuse’s three-point win over the Panthers last year.
Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The spotlight right now is shinning on the Syracuse Orange and the Clemson Tigers, who will duel in Death Valley at high noon Saturday on ABC. But in reality, it might be the game after The Game, a road trip to Pittsburgh, that could go along way toward deciding the fate of Syracuse’s season.

It was announced today that the contest between SU and Pitt on Saturday, Oct. 6 will have a 12:20 p.m. kickoff and will air on Raycom Sports. That should mean the usual local affiliates with ACC rights will have the game. (It’s always funny to me that watching your team play has actually become a more difficult process even though we’re all here, living in 2018.)

The two old kind-of rivals met in the Dome last season, with the Orange holding on to best the Panthers, 27-24. As John wrote at the time, Syracuse was able to wear down Pittsburgh with its defense, not just its always potentially-explosive offense. Pitt couldn’t get comfortable and at one point in that game from ‘17 was 0-10 on the third-down conversions.

The Orange, though, did put up some nice numbers on the other side of the ball. As then junior Eric Dungey threw for 365 yards and two TDs, with Syracuse eating up over 500 yards of total offense. It was just that the game itself had a buffering type effect; a stuttering slog with a score that was probably closer than it should have been, especially so given how SU overpowered the Panthers in key areas.

It is also noteworthy that Dungey was able to connect with tight end Ravian Pierce nine times for 99 yards receiving against the Panthers last season. Of course, now Pierce is out “for a long time” according to Babers. It would be more than surprising if he suited up for the Orange in a couple of weeks; a potential weapon that will not be in Babers’ and Dungey’s arsenal this time around.

So far this season, meanwhile, Pittsburgh sits at an oddly fitting 2-2 on the season, one of the seemingly countless mediocre middle class ACC teams. Pitt has victories against Albany and Georgia Tech—a hard-fought and important conference W. Then there are the losses, which include a beat-down by Penn State at home and a tough and puzzling 38-35 loss at North Carolina last weekend. The Panthers, who came into the game with the Tar Heels as the favorites, scored 28 first-half points, only to manage just seven in the final two quarters.

That defeat combined with a defense that seems to be more sieve than strong, has the faithful wondering if the wheels might be coming off of the tracks for the Panthers. Consider, Pitt has a Doctor Gross style road trip to play Defending National Champion Central Florida* this Saturday, before then hosting the Orange, followed by a road game at Notre Dame in mid-October. Yeesh. Getting to bowl-berth eligibility might be another real stretch for head man Pat Narduzzi.

With that as the backdrop, Syracuse sits as a complete 180 from where the Panthers are right now. SU just put 51 points on the board and beat Connecticut by 30 (covering a 29.5 point spread, even), and yet it still seems to most followers that even at 4-0, Dino Babers’ team hasn’t yet played its greatest football all the way around. Which is all true, and means that even with its best start since 1991, SU’s peak potential is still out there to be seen.

By the time kick comes in western Pennsylvania on Oct. 6, the Orange will be looking to inch closer to six wins and the elusive bowl invitation. And who knows, maybe even a top-25 ranking along the way for good measure. The expectations have been raised, even with an anticipated blow-out loss at Clemson coming this weekend.