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College football: SU-Pitt winner will become bowl eligible

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In a season full of new opponents in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Syracuse University will finally face some familiar foes in its quest to reach a bowl game.

The Orange, at 5-5 overall and 3-3 in its inaugural ACC season, will host former Big East rival Pittsburgh (5-5, 2-4) at 12:30 today in the Carrier Dome.

The game will be televised by the ACC Network and is available on WWTI (ABC).

SU will host another former Big East opponent, Boston College (6-4, 3-3), in its regular-season finale next Saturday.

“It’s what college football should be about,” SU coach Scott Shafer said. “With the push toward the big mega conferences, to some degree, I’m saddened that some of the rivalries are not played anymore… I think any time you have that familiarity with an area and a fan base, it’s a positive thing. And that’s one thing that’s nice with the ACC bringing ourselves into the league, as well as having Boston College and Pitt, you get that opportunity to see some of those old-time rivalries stay the course. I know the fans enjoy it.”

Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst said of the rivalry: “I think, like Pitt, Syracuse has had a lot of really good players, good teams. There’s a tradition there. Our older players have a familiarity with their older players. I think there certainly is a lot of respect for Syracuse. I think every time we play, it’s a big game.”

The winner of today’s matchup will gain bowl eligibility. The Panthers could reach that six-win mark for the sixth straight year while the Orange could reach a bowl for the third time in four years. SU and Pitt both won bowl games last year, upping each program’s all-time total to 14 and 12, respectively.

“It’s only human nature to be so close to something and have it be a constant in your head,” SU senior defensive tackle and captain Jay Bromley said.

“It’s talked about here and there but we always just want to focus on winning the next game. We say we got two to get one, why not get one at a time?”

With eight ACC teams already eligible for a bowl berth, six wins doesn’t necessarily guarantee an invite to a bowl.

“We can’t really ignore the fact that we want to go to a bowl game, but our thing is to just put our heads down and look up at the end of the season and wherever the chips lay, we’ll be OK with,” SU running back and captain Jerome Smith said.

“Whether that’s to go to a bowl game, of course that’s our goal,” Smith added.

Pitt is second only to Penn State as SU’s most frequently played opponent. Boston College ranks fifth on the list.

SU and Pitt have met 68 times, with the Panthers owning a 34-31-3 edge in the all-time series. SU won a defensive-minded game last year in the Carrier Dome, 14-13, in their last meeting as Big East members.

That victory snapped the Orange’s seven-year losing streak in the series.

SU had won two straight games before last Saturday’s 59-3 thumping at the hands of No. 2 Florida State. Pitt has lost three of its last four games and four of its last six.

Home-field advantage could be a factor as the Orange is 3-1 at home this season and the Panthers are 1-3 on the road.

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