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Opponent Breakdown: Syracuse Orange

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Louisville is set to face another stout defense this weekend. The big question is if their strong running game can keep Louisville's already anemic offense on the sidelines.

Andy Lyons

Syracuse is in year two of the transition to Scott Shafer after Doug Marrone left for the Buffalo Bills. They are also still transitioning into the ACC after being a solid performer in the Big East. Shafer took his team to a bowl game in his first year and has a fairly stout defense this season. He will need better production from his offense if he hopes to get back to a bowl game, let alone a win against the Cards.

OFFENSE:

Louisville fans know all to well that the quarterback position is vital to the success of the entire offense. The Orange have a pretty steady hand at that spot with Terrel Hunt. Hunt is a fairly massive dual threat quarterback at 234 pounds and he is not afraid to lower his shoulder when running the ball. He also has a big arm and does a pretty good job with his accuracy down the field. Cuse runs a spread offense that can shrink into somewhat of a power set. Hunt gives the offense the ability to run power out of the spread which can cause some issues if they can force Grantham to ease up with his blitzes. Hunt will be missing a few weapons this week, so that might be a tough task this week. Hunt completes less than 60% of his passes but UofL's constant pressure could force the offense to be pretty vanilla. His short accuracy could be a big factor in how well the offense does as a whole.

Fans might remember Prince-Tyson Gulley from two years ago when he ran for 98 yards and two touchdowns in one of the most frustrating losses in recent memory. Gulley is a compact back with breakaway speed. In the last trip to the Carrier Dome the Orange used a two back system with a speed/power dynamic. This year Cuse will roll out four different backs that can all break off a decent chunk gain. Adonis Ameen-Moore typically splits the majority of the load with Gulley and he is more of a power back of the two. With Hunt's ability to run the ball the read option will be a real test for the defense this week. Louisville has faced the "option" this year, but no quarterback has actually been a threat to keep the ball. If Louisville wants to win this game they will have to keep Syracuse from running for their average 5.7 yards per carry.

Injuries have ravaged the Syracuse receivers and they will be without three starting pass catchers for the game. Leading receiver Jarrod West will be a focal point for the defense. He is a consistent performer for the offense and the lone deep threat they have left this week. West typically plays outside while Ben Lewis is a solid slot threat even at 6-2. Steve Ishmael and Adrian Flemming will have to step up in a big way for the offense to maintain the ability to be multidimensional. If Charles Gaines and Andrew Johnson can do a good job against the outside receivers, Hunt will be forced to try and work the middle of the field where Gerod Holliman lurks.

The offensive line is headlined by future NFL tackle Sean Hickey but the rest of the group deserves some serious praise for their play so far this season. The group is leading the way for an running game that is averaging 5.7 yards per carry ad they have only allowed one sack so far. Even the one sack was a coverage sack that Hunt ran right into. Hickey will square off against Lorenzo Mauldin pretty often in the game, especially if Cuse decides to give backup right tackle Michael Lasker help with a tight end. We all know the importance of steady offensive line play and Syracuse has just that. Their ability to control the point of attack is the most important factor in this game for the offense.

KEY PLAYERS: LT Sean Hickey, QB Terrel Hunt, RB Prince-Tyson Gulley, RB Adonis Ameen-Moore

DEFENSE:

Louisville's offensive line has been pressured from the first drive of the season. Miami uncharacteristically blitzed and stunted in the first game and even Wake brought extra rushers to confuse the front five. Syracuse will be a different level test for a group that just doesn't seem to be able to get on the same page. Cuse will line up with three or four down linemen. They will blitz from all kinds of angles and positions. They will also put line up in ways that are purely meant to confuse the offensive line. Think Virginia without the athletes. The front four do a great job of being extremely disruptive as well as playing assignment football. This defense doesn't work if the line can't stay in their lanes and stunt where they are supposed to. They may not make a ton of plays in the backfield, but they do a great job of opening things up for the guys behind them.

The group of Orange linebackers are having an excellent season led by outside backer Cameron Lynch. Lynch leads the team in tackles, sacks, and tackles for loss. Dyshawn Davis and Marqez Hodge round out a group that has done a great job at getting penetration and making plays against the run and in pass rushing situations. The issue has been their ability to cover in space and keep up with athletic receivers. Notre Dame absolutely killed Syracuse with quick passes and screens (Detailed extremely well here by Mike). The linebackers played on their heels and allowed blockers to get to them and open space for the receivers. The Cuse linebackers will have to attack receivers once they catch the ball or guys like James Quick and Eli Rogers will take short passes and turn them into big plays.

One of the most underrated players in the conference is Durell Eskridge. The 6-4 free safety is a Miami Central product doesn't get a lot of pub because he plays for a team that doesn't get a ton of fanfare for football. Eskridge had a very nice pick-six last week where he read Everett Golson's quick read against a blitz and jumped the route. Eskridge is joined back deep by Darius Kelly who has done a good job of being a replacement linebacker so to speak when the linebackers blitz. Kelly is second on the team in tackles and has three pass breakups. Syracuse will be without a starting cornerback for the second straight week and they got burned by Notre Dame's talented receivers. Brandon Reddish is an experienced guy, but his lack of size has hampered him a bit. Teams have not shied away from throwing at the Syracuse corners and they have had very good success. Louisville will need to push the ball down the field if Syracuse somehow adjust their scheme to stop the short passing game.

KEY PLAYERS: FS Durell Eskridge, LB Cameron Lynch, LB Marqez Hodge

Notes

  • Tyson-Prince Gulley was stabbed a few years ago and has worked his way back from his injuries.
  • Scot Shafer loves to curse and does not care for Dabo Swinney.
  • Syracuse will be without five starters.
  • Durell Eskridge was a high school teammate of John Miller and Charles Gaines.