With Pittís mammoth 48-24 victory Saturday afternoon in the Carrier Dome, Panther fans believe they have reasons to get excited. Whoa, not so fast! Sure Rod Rutherford connected on 10-15 passes for 279 yards and 2 touchdowns and the defense forced 4 turnovers, but Pitt mauled an awful Syracuse team.
The Panthers had not won in Syracuse in 20-plus years, but this is not typical Syracuse. Orangemen coach Paul Pasquiloni does not have the same team that won eight consecutive games last season. Instead Syracuse brought back only eight starters with only two of them on offense. Syracuse is now 1-4 with an atrocious loss to an awful North Carolina team that is also 1-4. The Orangemenís lone win is against Division 1-AA Rhode Island.
Also, Syracuseís triple overtime loss at #24 Auburn is not an accurate display of Syracuseís team either. Auburn took the Orangemen lightly and turned it on very late to win the game. Talented sophomore runner Carnell "Cadillac" Williams ran for a career-high 202 yards on 40 carries against Syracuse and was possibly the only player on the Tigerís roster to play up to standards.
Next week is the bar to which this Pitt team should be measured. Notre Dame is ranked as a top-ten team, but the Irish are not likely that good. Without sophomore quarterback Carlyle Holiday, the 5-0 Irish are barely a top-25 team. The Irish have needed only 14 touchdowns to get to 5-0 and six of those have come on defense and special teams. The Panthers have a better defense than any opponent for the Irish this season outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The October 12th match-up between the Panthers and the Irish may be one of the ugliest games of the season. Comparing the two teams, Pitt may actually have more talent on their roster than the Irish, but Pitt isnít Notre Dame. And Pitt doesnít have Ty Willingham. However, Notre Dame may be starting a former walk-on Pat Dillingham, but do not count on it. Holiday could have played against Stanford.
Junior Rod Rutherfordís effort appeared terrific for Pitt, but his numbers mask his below average pass accuracy and below average decision making ability for a Red-shirt Junior. Rutherford has however made great strides towards becoming a very good quarterback and has one intangible that is essential for a quarterback: He has the respect of his teammates. Pitt will win plenty of games behind Rutherford if his teammates continue to follow him and his coach continues to support him.
Pitt will be in a bowl game this year, games at home against below-average ball clubs in West Virginia and Temple. Pitt will win seven games at least, but wins against Notre Dame and Boston College could put the Panthers in a New Yearís Day bowl game. Thinks could be quite different if the Panthers fail to put up a decent effort against Notre Dame. With a bad loss, Saturday nightís Midnight Madness might move Panther fans to a real contender led by Ben Howland.