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Key Matchups: Syracuse Orange

The Key Matchups this week revolve around Syracuse's pacey offense.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports


The Orange have a jack-of-all-trades defensive back in Antwan Cordy. Cordy was recruited as a corner but he can play as a nickel, slot corner, or his normal starting position at free safety. Being able to play at the line and be a force in run support is what really stands out about a guy that is listed at 175 pounds but he has also shown a solid ability to hang in man coverage as well as cover space as a deep safety.

I won't pretend to know Syracuse's gameplan against UofL's spread but Cordy gives them versatility that most don't have. Cuse can play nickel with better tacklers on the field while also having a guy covering slot guys like James Quick and Traveon Samuel who can actually run with them. If Louisville gets into long situations, Cordy can be an over top defender if Louisville looks to push the ball down the sidelines to a guy like Jaylen Smith. Cordy is definitely a guy to keep an eye on this Friday.


Dino Babers likes to go fast and he will likely go even faster than normal with Todd Grantham's pressure defense coming up this weekend. The Orange got off about 70 plays with their starters last week in their first game in a completely flipped system from last year. Eric Dungey threw the ball 40 times and he ran another 8 times while their running backs combined for 18 carries. They mindset is purely based on the idea that the more plays you run, the more opportunities you have to score. Babers mixed in deep throws with quick screens and other short routes to keep the defense off balance and it worked pretty well for his offense. Babers' offense is developed from the Baylor power-spread but so far it looks like he will likely focus more on getting the ball to his fairly strong group of receivers.

Grantham hasn't struggled against pacey offenses at his time at Louisville but I do think that Babers will have the fastest pace we have seen so far. Grantham likes to be aggressive and likes to bring pressure from different angles but that could be more challenging when he can't sub as much as he wants or if Babers is able to put him on his heels to the point that he is calling defenses in a reactionary fashion. Louisville has better athletes in the front seven but Syracuse is pretty underrated at receiver and I think that they can do well on space plays as well as go routes against smaller corners. The question is can Grantham stay ahead of Babers' pace so that he can call the defenses that he wants?


Louisville will face an offense that won't likely have much success running the ball and will struggle to have the time to get the ball down the field for deep pass routes. What they won't likely struggle with is getting the ball to their fastest players in space. Ervin Phillips is the fastest player on Syracuse's offense and Dino Babers got the ball to him early and often against Colgate last week. Phillips finished the game with 14 catches on 15 targets but Colgate did a good job of containing Phillips after the catch. If there is one thing that really stood out about the Orange offense last week is that they didn't "out-athlete" an over-matched opponent. Phillips should have broken free at least a couple of times last week. You could put Brisly Estime in that category also. Estime is an outstanding punt returner and excels in space. The fact that neither of these guys were able to make multiple big plays has to be concerning for Babers and his offensive staff.

JHC and Chucky Williams have not been unbelievable players in man coverage. Both are taller and longer players that can play over top in coverage and both have good ball skills for safeties. Neither are quick or agile enough to turn and cut with a guy like Phillips. On paper, Louisville shouldn't have a problem containing a guy that a team like Colgate hemmed up but we all know that they've had their fair share of issues stopping the obvious threat on the other side of the ball. What is worrisome with this matchup is that JHC has had trouble before playing against quick players in space. You can also bet that Babers only utilized a smaller portion of his playbook against such a weak team. It could take Todd Grantham a drive or two to adjust.