LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (4-1, 2-1) AT SYRACUSE ORANGE (2-2, 0-0)
Game Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Carrier Dome: Syracuse, NY
Announcers: Ryan Ruocco (play-by-play), Danny Kannell (analyst) and Niki Noto (sidelines)
Favorite: Louisville by 2.5
All-Time Series: Tied 6-6
Last Meeting: Syracuse won 45-26 at the Carrier Dome in 2012
Schedule of Events:
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-Mooretypically 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
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 hereby 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
Excitement Level: 8.5
It's a little bit more of an excitement/fear meter tonight, just because I feel like whatever happens in this game is going shed a great deal of light on what the second half of the season is going to look like. Still, big Friday night away games are pretty cool. Work week ends, you head home, you either have people over or you go somewhere else, and then you get to watch the Cards play a very important game. Also, a very happy fall break to all the U of L students. Life is okay today.
Pregame Meal: Fast food somewhere on Westport Rd.
Not White Castle. Went there before the Virginia game and will not make that mistake again. Different viewing location tonight though, so don't worry.
Game Attire: Red Louisville football shirt under black U of L track jacket, jeans, red Titleist U of L hat and red Cardinal bird shoes.
I have not come close to getting this right yet, but I think the key might be going back to the non-regular undershirts. Here's another shot.
Bold Prediction: DeVante Parker dresses.
Predicted Star of the Game: Charles Gaines
Terrel Hunt gives him a couple of opportunities to make a play, he does, and then he lets the entire world know about it.
Griffin Uhl Playing Alert Level: Wisteria (Have I used that before? Maybe? Anyway, it's not great.)
Motivational Opposing Player Tweets:
Lots of players actually talking about the game, which is a welcome change from the past couple of weeks, but still nothing too motivational.
The fan base on the other hand...
--This will be Louisville's fourth ACC game of the season, but Syracuse's first. In all four of U of L's conference games, the Cards have been squaring off against a team making its league debut. Syracuse is the only team in the ACC yet to play a conference game.
--Syracuse is looking to avoid its first three-game losing streak since 2011.
--Louisville is 3-3 all-time in games played inside the Carrier Dome.
--Bobby Petrino is 3-0 all-time against Syracuse, and 2-0 all-time at the Carrier Dome.
--Louisville has won nine straight games when they've been forced to play less than seven days after their previous game.
--Syracuse is 8-1 in its last nine weekday games, and hasn't lost a non-Saturday game since 2011.
--Louisville is 12-3 in the month of October with Bobby Petrino as the head coach.
--In 1989, Syracuse defeated Louisville 24-13 in the Coca-Cola Bowl in Tokyo, Japan. It's the only time either program has played a game outside the United States.
--This will be the 18th straight game that Louisville has been favored to win, a streak which ties the program record. U of L has not been an underdog since the 2013 Sugar Bowl, and has not lost a game as an underdog since the 2011 Belk Bowl.
--Syracuse's Durell Eskridge was a high school teammate of Louisville's John Miller and Charles Gaines at Miami Central.
--Louisville is 18-0 over the last three seasons when attempting at least 35 rushes in a game.
--Louisville has scored in 22 of its 23 trips (96%) to the red zone this season. In 2013, Louisville finished 50-of-58 in the red zone (86%).
--The Cardinal defense enters tonight ranking third in the country in total defense. They lead the nation in interceptions and rush defense, and are second in tackles for loss and third down conversion rate.
--Syracuse is 129-77-2 all-time in games played inside the Carrier Dome.
--Syracuse will be holding an "Orange Out" for tonight's game.
--Louisville's Gerod Holliman leads the nation in interceptions with six.
--Bobby Petrino is 6-0 all-time in Friday night games as the head coach of the Cardinals.
--Overall, Louisville is 44-28-1 all-time in Friday night games.
--Syracuse has thrown for just two touchdown passes this season.
--Louisville is 5-5 all-time in games played on Oct. 3, including a 15-9 loss to Syracuse in 1992.
--The Syracuse offensive line has allowed just one sack this season.
--Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 178 games dating back to the 2000 season. The streak ranks as the third longest in the ACC behind Virginia Tech (249) and Georgia Tech (216).
--Bobby Petrino is 41-6 at Louisville against unranked foes.
--Dating back to 1980, Louisville is 146-15 when scoring 30 or more points in a game.
--"We want to bounce back, and Louisville would be the way to do it. They've got a lot of hungry dudes who blitz a lot. They pressure well. They want to hit guys. They're physical. But we're physical, as well. That's the biggest thing about our backfield. We're going to have to show our toughness against those guys." --Syracuse FB Adonis Ameen Moore
--"They have a quarterback who is third in the league in total offense. He can run it, which creates a new dimension to the offense. The have running backs who run hard and wide receivers who can go get the ball down field. We have to be ready to play." --U of L defensive coordinator Todd Grantham
--"It's always great to play Louisville. I'm happy they're in the ACC. They were one of our top opponents in the Big East." --Syracuse safety Durell Eskridge
--"Maybe we have an advantage (in motivation) that we have a group of players who have a chip on their shoulders about a couple years ago when they went up to Syracuse." --Bobby Petrino
--"They beat us - bad. I remember that. I brought it up in practice. I just told the team and reminded them about that game and how important it is to practice hard through this week." --Eli Rogers
--"That was a long time ago and a lot different situation that we're confronted with right now. Right now we're just kind of focused in on finding a way to move the ball against one of the best defenses in the country, and looking forward to that challenge, and then a great mind in Coach Petrino on offense. We've got a great challenge in front of us here as we get back home in the Dome." --Syracuse coach Scott Shafer
--"It's probably a good thing it's a short week. The guys just came back and started right on Louisville." --Syracuse defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough
--"We've been battling some injuries and we're still a work in progress. Thank God we have a great defense because it's allowing us to work at getting better offensively." --Bobby Petrino
--"After two straight losses, you get hungry for that next win, I think we're coming into the game with a lot of hunger. We're up for the challenge." -- Syracuse cornerback Julian Whigham
--"They were a very good defense last year, as well, as you know. They've got great playmakers. That safety Holliman, I remember him in high school, and he's a great player. Six interceptions already this year. And there's a reason why you take those kids that can run and hit and put them in a great coordinator like Coach Grantham, that's why they're No.1 in the country in rush defense, No.3 total defense, and just all over the place with all the other categories in the top 10, top 12." --Syracuse coach Scott Shafer
--"They are a good team. We are going into the game with a great minsdet. They want to establish the line of scrimmage and run the football. We need to be ready as a defense. We are taking what the coaches are teaching us and getting ready to just go play." --Sheldon Rankins
CC Prediction: Louisville 24, Syracuse 20
I would love to be wrong about this (in the right way), but I don't see too many relaxed moments watching this game tonight.