As we move into the 10th game of the season, we are still undefeated. Louisville is coming off of its most dominant victory of the season over Temple. The CARDS will face Syracuse this week, possibly the scariest, least favoritiest, trappiest game of the season. In 2006, there was a Thursday night game on November 9th, were we did go to the northeast and play in front of a loud crowd and lost. But that was Rutgers. This is Syracuse. (If you remember back in ‘06, we took it up to Syracuse, did ‘em boys bad on the ground, called it child abuse, Bowlin’…) Syracuse comes into this game angry and desperate after they lost a lead to a back-up quarterback against Cincinnati and still need two wins to become bowl eligible. Syracuse sits alone in 4th place in the Big East with victories over UConn, PITT, and USF, but have lost to Cincinnati and Rutgers. Of course, the Fighting Jim’s Nose Goblins do play better at home rather than on the road, with more points per game, yards per game, and less turnovers at home, and it is Senior Day for the Orange. On the bright side, this will be the last time that we should have to see this team for a good long while, and what better way to complete the “Don’t let the door hit you on the ACC on the way out” tour than to take it to these guys and finally put together a complete game.
At the end of each section, I rate the advantage or disadvantage on a 5 point scale. -2, -1, Even, +1, or +2. 2 point advantages are reserved for very big advantages or disadvantages. Let’s begin.
1. Offensive Line Play – The Offensive line does a good job protecting Ryan Nassib. This is the main reason that Syracuse’s offense sits atop the conference in many categories, including passing offense at 308 yards per game, first downs at 25 per game, and total offense at 463 yards per game. They are a very balanced team with the ability to run and pass very well. The O-Line has only given up 13 sacks on the year, as the Senior Nassib understands when to throw the ball away and when to run. They do have 2 O-Linemen who have started 30 or more games in their career, but the remaining 3 have started a career 17 games combined. This could be the sign of a potential attack point. If Bedford can throw some clever blitzes in there, we could get to Nassib and really disrupt a very good passing game. The O-Line of the CARDS is very good and protects Teddy reasonably well. I expect to see this continue, especially in the second half. Their Defense has recorded 17 sacks on the year, so don’t expect to see too much pressure, but they will try to take the Bazooka out of this one as much as they can. EVEN
2. The Run Game – Syracuse could be viewed as a 1-2 or even a 1-2-3 punch. They have starter Jerome Smith who averages 5 yards per carry and valuable backup, Prince-Tyson Gulley, who averages around 4 per carry. Their third running back is Sophomore Adonis Ameen-Moore, who is more of a goal-line running back at 5’11”, 239lbs. He returns from an injury, so I wouldn’t expect to see him unless they get into a short and goal situation. They only have 11 rushing touchdowns on the season, while the CARDS have 22 to this point. On the season, both teams have about the same amount of rushing yards, with Louisville leading at 1408-1401. It will really come down to how well Wright and Perry can run. This Syracuse run defense is not great, giving up 160 yards per game. I think if we can stop their rushing attack, or at least look like we did in the second half against Temple, we should win this one. Still, the two are pretty evenly matched. EVEN
3. Special Teams – Syracuse ranks 9th in the nation in kick return coverage yardage defense. Their Kicker, Ryan Norton, has 22 touchbacks on the season. However, their Special Teams isn’t all Gum Drops and Unicorns. Their Field Goal kicker, Ross Krautman, is 10-18 with two blocked kicks and six misses. Their punter also averages under 40 yards per kick and has pinned only 13 of 38 kicks inside the 20. Louisville could finally have a game where we could win the field position battle. Syracuse does also have a blocked punt on the season, which came against USF. Louisville’s Special Teams woes continued last week against Temple, where we allowed the opening kick-off to go to the house, giving us an early 7 point deficit to erase. We have also only kicked 5 kicks for touchbacks on the season, out of 58. Yeah. 5-58. Wow. So even though our place kicker is better, I give the edge to Syracuse on this one. CARDS -1.
4. Impact of "New" Players – I think the biggest New Player for the CARDS may be the Carrier Dome. None of these guys have played a football game indoors save the Beef Bowl for some of them. This will be a new and different experience for the CARDS, something they will have to get used to in a hurry. This is a big blessing for a road game though, after FIU and the Bathtub Bowl at Southern Miss, and if I recall, it wasn’t beautiful at PITT either. We will be playing a game that will for sure be dry, with no wind. If TD has time to decipher what is available to him, look the fruck out. He could be in for another big game. Also on the impact list will be any players returning from injury or suspension for both sides of the field. A guy like Chuck Gaines could really make big plays against their somewhat soft defense, which has fewer interceptions than we do. I think with the game being played in ideal conditions, the CARDS should be able to do what they want to do offensively in this one, and that is a big plus for them. CARDS +1
5. Coaching – Syracuse is 10-5 in Night games and 11-20 in Day games under Doug Marrone over the past four years. Does Coach Marrone have a problem getting his players focused for early starts? He will certainly have to get them ready for this one. He is a career 21-25 and in the Big East, just 9-17. But he does have his teams playing well, just not capitalizing on situations and making mistakes. They, like the CARDS have yet to put a full game together. However, I would take our Coaching Staff and our Head Coach and the train they have built with their bare hands and ride that train over any other mode of transportation forever. These coaches have shown that they know what it takes to win. While it may be a little bit ugly at times, and the grind it out run style offense is not as appealing as it could be, rest assured these coaches have one thing in mind, a W. If Watson and TD are on the same page, and Spiderman and Honey Mustard and Drell are doing their things, this could be a fun one to watch. I will take our Coaching Staff all day. CARDS +1
6. Depth – As far as depth goes, their defense has a little bit of good depth, but their offense is what it is. They have about three real Wide Recievers who are threats in Alec Lemon, Marcus Sales, and Jarrod “The Logo” West. They also get their Running Back Prince-Tyson Gulley in on the action, throwing to him out of the backfield regularly. And their tight end is another target Nassib looks for. So he does like to spread it around, but I still think we have more playmakers and a deeper team with more talent. Expect that to show later in this game, as we bring in fresh bodies to make big plays. CARDS +1
7. Defensive Pressure – Like I said earlier, Syracuse’s pass defense has fewer interceptions on the season than we do, and we have just 6 through 9 games. They have a total of 17 sacks on the year, so don’t expect for their defensive pressure to get TD too far out of rhythm. He will likely have a couple of poor drives, but will really shine as their defense begins to wear down and he finds match ups that he likes. Louisville could really use a big game from Marcus Smith. If we can get some pressure on the QB, we could really disrupt the flow of this game and it could be a much bigger win than expected. They will throw the ball, and they will throw it well, but when you throw about one interception per game and have fumbled 17 times and lost 9 of them, Turnovers become a big deal. If the CARDS can do exactly what every other team has done this year, and force turnovers, we have a really good shot. Syracuse is 4-2 in games with two or fewer turnovers, and are 0-3 in games with three or more. It sounds obvious, but if we force turnovers, we win this game. It all comes down to Defensive pressure, and believe it or not, I give the CARDS a slight edge in this category. CARDS +1
8. Expectations – This will be the first time since 2006 that we have had a single digit ranking next to our name. So then, why is everyone doubting us? Vegas is doubting us. The other conferences and fans are doubting us. Even Todd McShay is doubting us (but that’s the only way that ESPN will allow him to breath). If the CARDS aren’t playing with the biggest disrespect card they have ever had in their lives, then I don’t know what can ignite that fire. According to articles throughout the week, they know they are being disrespected. The national media is the best thing that could have happened to the CARDS. People don’t expect them to just go out and win, so they feel like they have something new to prove each week. I say this is a plus. On the other side of the field, it will be Senior Day for 12th year starting QB Ryan Nassib. He will certainly be looking to go out with a bang. Coming off a loss to Cincinnati, they only have three games left to become bowl eligible. They need two wins to get there. They have said all week they think they can beat us. The CARDS have to prove themselves again and show them that they can’t. I think the CARDS are more talented and will prove that this week without the forces of mother nature working against them. CARDS +1
9. Position Edges – Teddy has been the player of the week for 18 years now, he gets the nod over Nassib. Our Wide outs and Recievers are better too. I am saying this even though Nassib could have huge game this week. Their receivers do drop some balls, where as Teddy to whoever is good for a completion more than 7/10 times. I feel the Run games are about even. They may get a few more yards, but it won’t be too drastic. The two lines are about the same, so it comes down the line backers and DBs. It really all comes down to the ability to disguise coverage. I think Bedford has been working on this hard, and that we will see a couple of near interceptions in the second and third quarters, with one of both coming to fruition. Also, BAM and Preston could create a couple of loose ball situations with an offense that doesn’t like to hold onto the ball. Our Backs have a better day and the CARDS take care of business. CARDS +1
10. Offensive Improvement – Since the Bathtub Bowl, the Offense has continued to improve. We beaten teams while scoring 27, 34, and 45 twice. This offense has shown they can score points. Don’t expect them to stop in this game. And did you know, the CARDS are tied for 1st nationally in red zone efficiency, at 33/34? Their one drive was a failed 4th and 1 at the 20 against UNC that changed the momentum of the game. Over Syracuse’s last four games, they have put up, 40 and 36 in victories and 24 and 15 in losses. They will have to put up more than 24 to beat the CARDS. I think they will put up a few more points than that, but the CARDS offense, without the threat of rain, will be the one that shines in this one. CARDS +1
As of Thurdsay night, the spread sits with the CARDS favored by 1.5 points. This is crazy, considering the CARDS are 9-0, ranked 9th in the nation, and a playing a team that has 5 losses on the season. Wow. Talk about a disrespectful slap in the face. Right now, I have the CARDS as a favorite by 6, and I think this one could be a bigger victory than even that. Yes, we are playing a streaky Syracuse team that, if hot at the right time, could make some noise, but I really think the way Coach Strong and his staff get the guys up for games works as the results show.
Here I show I see this one playing out. Syracuse will defer, giving the CARDS the ball, and TD and company take it down and put up 7. Syracuse comes back down and puts up 7 of their own. Things start to slow down, as the CARDS methodically drive down the field and put up three. Syracuse gets stopped and the CARDS put up 7 more. Syracuse scores a touchdown to put it back within 3 but their run game is starting to slow down around the end of the half. Louisville gets another field goal just before the half. Syracuse comes back out with the game at 20-14. This is when the defensive pressure comes up big and stops a fourth down around their 30 yard line. We drive back down the field and get a touchdown. Syracuse puts up and a passing touchdown, but Nassib is getting erratic and a bit desperate with his passes, which will bite him early in the fourth quarter when the CARDS get catch one of his. Jeremy Wright gets a big play late in the third quarter and sets up a short pass to the flat for Doogie and another score. The fourth quarter sees both teams put up around ten points, but it’s not quite enough for Syracuse. I expect the CARDS to complete the ACC-Beating and revenge games that they have been working on all season. They took care of PITT, UC, FIU, and will now come out of this one the first team in the nation to win 10 games this season by beating Syracuse on their Senior Day in the Dome. Only two games will remain for the CARDS! Can you feel it?! OSM Pick: 44-34
Sorry, I know these are a little bit long, but I enjoy writing them, and I hope some of you like reading them, even if they are lengthy. I am sad that I will not be in Papa John’s Cardinal stadium this weekend. Still I have not been this excited to watch a road football game in a really long time. I am nervous, but after doing some research, I feel a little better about our chances, as indicated by my score prediction. I hope the team leaves everything on the field, because they have an extra week to recoup after this game. Go get it done CARDS. Take sole possession of the Big East lead. Then come home and get us through to the UCONN game. Can’t Wait! This could be a very big weekend for UofL Football!
Beat Kentucky!!! Then Beat the Bears!!! Then Beat the Tar Heels!!! Then Beat FIU!!! Then Beat Southern Miss!!! Then Beat PITT!!! Then Beat USF!!! Then Beat Cincinnati!!! Then Beat Temple!!!
Then Beat Syracuse!!! Go CARDS!!!