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Opponent Breakdown: Syracuse Defense

Louisville will look to get back to seeing some positive things from their offense this week.

NCAA Football: Wagner at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse hasn’t been known for its defense but they have done well over the last two seasons to try to change that. While I’ve said all year that I wasn’t buying into the Orange until their defense showed up for a full year and they’ve pretty much done that so far this year. The defense fell apart towards the end of last season but they have not shown signs of having that same issue again.

The front for Cuse has been the key to their success, in my opinion. Alton Robinson has been a terror off the edge with almost half of his tackles going for a loss. Robinson and Kendall Coleman are racing for the team lead in sacks as both have seven on the year. Chris Slayton is the key in the middle of the line. Slayton made internet news this summer when he squated 700 pounds. Louisville is still purposely not playing their best offensive linemen, so this front could have a big day.

The Orange had to replace all of their linebackers from last year and that group was by far the strength of the defense. Kielan Whitner and Ryan Guthrie have stepped up to take on the job and both have racked up a ton of tackles. Guthrie is the guy that makes the most plays but I think that they just do well playing together. This defense has plenty of issues but I think that the reason they have had few games like the Pitt game where they gave up 44 points and they’ve had more games like the Clemson game where they allowed 27 is that they don’t make a ton of mistakes. The linebackers aren’t as talented as the guys they had last year but they don’t have to do it all on their own anymore.

I really like Syracuse’s secondary. They match up well with the pass rush because they’re opportunistic and they play “sticky” in coverage. One issue that I think UofL fans have noticed this year is that the corners don’t ever seem to be there when the ball arrives to the receivers. We saw that tight coverage on short routes back with Todd Grantham was here and that’s what Cuse gets a lot with their secondary guys. Scoop Bradshaw and Christopher Fredrick are veteran corners that play the ball well and limit mistakes. A strong passing day by Jawon Pass or Malik Cunningham could work out well for Louisville as these guys can be beaten. But they have to put the ball on the money.

Syracuse has one of the best freshmen in the country in Andre Cisco. Cisco is fourth in the country in interceptions and he has six pass break ups on top of that. My favorite thing about him might just be the confidence he plays with. He will pick off a pass and then come out on the next series and blow up your running back. He and Antwon Cordy make a perfect pairing for a versatile defense. Cordy can play in coverage in the slot or play as a deep safety. Evan Foster is the big physical safety for this defense so the three of them bring a different element to the table. I think we’ll see a lot of Cordy as UofL likes to spread the field. He’s always been one of my favorite players to watch in the ACC and now that he’s healthy he could be a guy to make a play or two in the middle of the field this weekend.