Way back in the antediluvian days of SB Nation, there existed just two Big East team sites: Card Chronicle and Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician. While the more powerful football conferences had a home for nearly every program in the league, CC and TNIAAM were left to fight the battle of the Big East on their own. It was a simpler time, a more vulgar time.
As Louisville and Syracuse prepare to resume their conference rivalry on the gridiron Friday evening, we're also afforded the opportunity to link back up with our old friends and talk Cards and Orange for the first time since the 2013 Big East championship game. John Cassillo of the site was kind enough to field any and all questions we had about tomorrow night's monstrously important game.
CC: It feels awfully good to be reunited with one of our favorite pseudo budding rivals from the Big East days. The football "rivalry" never gained quite as much national traction as the basketball one, but what's your favorite Louisville vs. Syracuse memory from those days?
TNIAAM: Certainly not that 10-9 abomination from 2009, that's for sure. But yeah, we oddly missed you guys a bit last year. Especially after that 45-26 upset we pulled up at the Dome in 2012, since it's seen as a bit of a turning point for that team finally reaching its full potential with Marrone/Nassib. So if I had to point to a favorite memory, it's probably that one.
The most fun part about SU-Louisville (football edition) was that aside from a few of those early years sharing the Big East, it was a pretty even matchup. In our collection of "rivalries" (BC, Pitt, WVU, Penn State), things have sort of been one-sided in one direction or the other so much that they can lack a spark at times. So here's to hoping my new "favorite memory" in this matchup is in the future.
CC: It appears as though Syracuse is going to be without a handful of key players on Friday. How much does that hurt the Orange's chances of winning and how do they replace those guys?
TNIAAM: Well a bunch of these injuries are pretty unfortunate for our chances, that's for sure. Without Ivan Foy, the right side of the offensive line gets pretty vulnerable. And with both Brisly Estime and Ashton Broyld sidelined, the passing game loses a ton of speed (though it also may mean that our incessant bubble screens are given a week off). Expect to see more of receivers/H-backs like Alvin Cornelius and Sean Avant in their stead in the short passing game, while the team (hopefully) moves to some deeper routes instead. Foy's injury caused the team to run almost entirely to the left on Saturday, though I'd think they avoid that with a full week of prep for Friday now.
CC: Terrel Hunt isn't Ryan Nassib, right? Please tell us he's not Ryan Nassib.
TNIAAM: Oh, how we WISH he was Ryan Nassib. Hunt has progressed as a passer over the past season, but he's still nowhere even close to what Nassib was. His accuracy's questionable at any distance, though at times... that deep ball of Hunt's is impressive. But it's inconsistent, and that's the problem. He CAN run, though. So I'd be at least a little concerned about that, even if his throwing arm is nothing to brag about.
CC: The 'Cuse defense seems to bring a lot of pressure, but against Notre Dame that left them extremely susceptible to giving up big plays on screen passes. Given how shaky Louisville's offensive line has been, do you think Chuck Bullough keeps bringing the heat? Or does he hold off a little and force young Reggie Bonnafon to beat his team with downfield passing?
TNIAAM: We're four games in, and Bullough's "brought the heat" against everyone. So yeah, Syracuse is going to blitz Louisville on nearly ever down in one way or another. You may not always know where it's coming from (nor do I), but it's going to happen. It leaves us susceptible to a lot -- even more concerning when your linebackers can't really cover and your secondary is not great -- but we're just kind of used to it. Quick screens usually work pretty well, because waiting long enough for downfield options to develop usually doesn't work against our pressure (see: most of Golson's game against us).
CC: Syracuse has run the ball effectively all season, but the Louisville defense has been tremendous against the run through five games. What gives on Friday, and do you think that's the biggest matchup to watch?
TNIAAM: The Orange offense needs to run effectively if they have any shot at winning, so despite how well Louisville defends against it, they're going to attack you with a varied mix of backs all game -- which is where the rushing attack finds its strength. Along with the five running backs, Hunt is a battering ram who takes off frequently, keeping defenses guessing in terms of who's getting the ball and how to stop them.
Louisville may be able to keep SU "in check" on the ground, but that may still mean they hit 200 yards as a team. I'm curious to see how the Cards' linebackers keep containment on Hunt when he makes a run for it, as it will largely determine whether or not the run's held in check.
TNIAAM: I have small portion of optimism left after what's been a rough start to the season, and I'm using it all here. If Syracuse can actually execute in the red zone, they should win, plain and simple. In previous games, the Orange attack has simply bogged down inside the 30, negating what's been a pretty productive couple weeks of offense (over 1,000 yards combined in the last two weeks). Should they find a way to keep playing their game and just continue driving toward the end zone (without mindless penalties) it bodes well. Defensively, SU's pressure should keep Bonnafon off-balance enough to derail Louisville's offense. It'll be close, but I'll take the Orange, 28-24.