After a 6-0 start, No. 20 Syracuse (6-2, 3-1 ACC) is visiting Pittsburgh on a two-game losing streak, and the odds are against them in the Steel City.

The Panthers (4-4, 1-3 ACC) also come in on a two-game losing streak, dropping road games at North Carolina and Louisville by double digits.

So why, then, is Syracuse an underdog by more than a field goal?

Syracuse’s History in Pittsburgh Isn’t the Best

The Orange come into Pittsburgh having won just one time at Acrisure Stadium (formerly Heinz Field), which was in 2001 when both teams were still in the Big East. Now a part of the ACC, the Panthers have won 17 of the last 20 meetings with the Orange.

Pitt has won four-straight games in the series, including a 31-14 victory that saw the Panthers cover as 11.5-point favorites in Syracuse last year, when they were led by Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett.

The Run Defense Has Been an Issue for Syracuse

The Orange’s run defense, which was stout for the first five games of the season, has faltered a bit in the last two weeks. After being shredded by Will Shipley and Clemson, Notre Dame ran for a total of 246 yards in the 41-24 Irish win. Audric Estime led the way with 123 yards and two scores while Logan Diggs added 85 yards and a score.

Of course, the game couldn’t have started any worse for Syracuse, as Garrett Shrader threw a pick-six interception on the first play, which led to the Orange having to play behind the 8-ball for the entire game.

Syracuse QB Shrader Expected to Start vs. Pittsburgh

While we saw Shrader take a shot to the head and didn’t play in the second half, Orange head coach Dino Babers said this week that Shrader was pulled at halftime due to injury–and the coach added it’s not a head injury. Given the fact that Shrader, who is typically a mobile quarterback, only had two rushing attempts for two yards, it would suggest that it’s a lower-body injury.

Despite that, Shrader is listed on the depth chart as the starter for Saturday vs. Pittsburgh. Carlos Del Rio-Wilson had some success in the third quarter to rally the Orange to within seven points before the game got out of hand. He ended up 11-for-22 passing for 190 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Is There Value in Syracuse as an Underdog vs. Pittsburgh in the Odds?

Here are the Syracuse vs. Pittsburgh odds, courtesy of BetMGM.

Syracuse Orange+3.548+160
Pittsburgh Panthers-3.548-200

Two things stand out that could be trouble for Syracuse in this one:

  • If the run defense continues to struggle, it will be a big day for Panthers running back Israel Abanikanda. His last three games have been strong, including a remarkable 320-yard, six touchdown performance against Virginia Tech. In the other two contests in that span, he averaged 128 yards a game and scored a total of four touchdowns.
  • The Orange are averaging 32.6 points per game, but they haven’t scored over 24 in their last four games against FBS teams. Pitt has been solid in run defense, which could neutralize Sean Tucker, but they’ve struggled in the passing game. Babers said that Shrader will start if he’s healthy. But he may not be 100%. If that’s the case, it could be a struggle offensively.

Pittsburgh started the season very well at home with a win over West Virginia and an overtime loss against Tennessee. And you’re probably aware that the Vols are currently the No. 1 team in the College Football Playoff rankings. With a hot running back and the Orange banged up on offense, we see the Panthers continuing their strong play at home.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 28, Syracuse 20

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