Coming off the best game of his college career, Max Browne put to rest any questions of a quarterback controversy in Pittsburgh - for at least one week anyway. Browne, who completed 28-of-32 passes for 410 yards and four touchdowns with zero interceptions against Rice last week, will likely need a similar performance when the Panthers travel to play high-powered Syracuse on Saturday.
Browne was considered the top quarterback coming out of high school but after an underwhelming run at USC, the grad transfer moved to Pittsburgh where he has been battling Ben DiNucci for snaps throughout the season’s first month. “For a week we did (find a quarterback). And Max has got to continue to play well or Ben will jump back in there, and I trust Max will do that,” Pitt catch Pat Narduzzi said this week. “I love what I saw (last week). To me I saw a different, more calm, composed guy that made quicker decisions, and that’s what we’ve got to keep him (doing).” Despite being ranked 34th in FBS in total offense (460.2 yards per game), Syracuse lost to Middle Tennessee in Week 2 and is coming off a 35-26 loss two weeks ago at LSU and a 33-25 defeat last week at North Carolina State. The Panthers won a 76-61 shootout against the Panthers in the regular-season finale for both teams last season in the highest-scoring game in FBS history.
TV: 12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network. LINE: Syracuse -3.5
ABOUT PITTSBURGH (2-3, 0-1 ACC): The Panthers snapped a three-game losing streak in which they were outscored by 75 points with the 42-10 romp over Rice as Browne, the ACC’s Offensive Back of the Week, recorded the ninth 400-yard passing game in school history and the most yards passing since Tom Savage threw for 424 at Duke in 2013. Wide receiver Jester Weah had five receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown against the Owls, but the Panthers’ ground attack could only muster 69 net yards on 33 attempts. The much-maligned Pittsburgh defense, which starts just two seniors, held Rice to 277 yards of total offense and 2.4 yards per carry while intercepting three passes.
ABOUT SYRACUSE (2-3, 0-1): Receiver Ervin Philips was named ACC Receiver of the Week after breaking school and conference records with 17 receptions for a career-high 188 yards against the Wolfpack. Quarterback Eric Dungey completed 30-of-47 passes for 385 yards with one TD but despite ranking fifth in FBS in pass completions (135), the junior ranks tied for 51st in TD passes (seven). The Orange defense ranks 50th in FBS in total defense (357.6) but has registered just four sacks.
1. The schools have played every year since 1955. The Panthers have won 13 of the last 15 and lead all-time 38-31-3.
2. In last year’s thriller, Weah had four catches for 99 yards and two scores while Quadree Henderson added 103 rushing yards and 154 on kick returns to offset 440 yards passing and seven total touchdowns (five TD passes) by current Syracuse backup Zach Mahoney.
3. Henderson is fourth in the country with 465 combined kick return yards. He led the nation in that category as a consensus All-American last year with 1,166.
PREDICTION: Pittsburgh 36, Syracuse 35