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What To Watch For: Syracuse Orange

We’ll continue to look at what the opponent will be able to do each week until morale improves.

Syracuse v Western Michigan Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Last week I decided to turn the #W2W4 post into a look at what Clemson would do to Louisville. I ended up going 2-4 as Clemson ran the ball with ease and forced three turnovers. So, we’re just going to keep doing this until Louisville gives me a reason to stop.


The Syracuse defense has been so much better this year than the previous years under Dino Babers and Andre Cisco is a big reason why. The true freshman has brought an energy and play making ability to this group that they just haven’t had before. I describe what Cuse’s defense was before this year as a “chase” defense. They were the type of defense that you always see chasing people as opposed to stopping them. Cisco stops people and he plays with the “swagger” (I hate that term) that you want out of your play makers.

I think that Cisco will be able to make some plays in the middle of the field for Syracuse. Jawon Pass has been inaccurate over the middle all season and that’s where UofL throws the ball the most. If Malik Cunningham ends up being the guy they go with, I think that the throws down the field will be where Cisco and the rest of the secondary could have some opportunities to make plays.


Louisville hasn’t stopped anyone from running the football since the FSU game and this week won’t be any different. Moe Neal has a career high of 116 yards rushing and I think he will top that this week. Louisville has allowed eight different players to run for over 100 yards over the last four games. Neal is due for a breakout game so this is a pretty easy prediction.

What Neal does well is hit the hole hard and he does a good job of blowing angles with his burst. Once he gets to the second level, he’s already at his top speed and he presses the defense to react quickly. Louisville hasn’t done that at all over the second half of this season and Neal is one of the quicker backs they will face.


The Orange defense has been good against the pass this season but they have some real issues stopping the running game. They are allowing teams to run for 4.3 yards per carry on the year and they are on the bad side of the rankings in average yards to go on third down as well as the percent of first downs they give up on first and second down. Those last two stats show that they allow chunk plays in running situations. Chris Slayton is a beast of a defensive tackle but they need more from their inexperienced linebackers.

Louisville seems to be settled into the idea that they will be at their best by not playing their best offensive linemen but they did see some nice things from the group against a great Clemson front last week. They also finally decided to use Colin Wilson more. Wilson showed everyone that he is the most skilled back that they have and he’s the best option going forward. If they commit to running the ball, they should have success moving the football and they can keep Syracuse’s offense off the field. That’s a big “if”, though.


Though Louisville has been abysmal at stopping the run over the last four weeks, I think that they can sustain some things on offense this week and the game won’t get out of hand early like it did against Clemson. That means that Syracuse will look to throw the ball more than they did last week when they were looking to keep Wake’s offense off the field. Syracuse has the athletes and the offensive philosophy to push the ball down the field with success against this Louisville defense.

I’m a strong believer that your pass rush is the biggest key when it comes to defending deep passes. If you can get pressure on the quarterback it goes a long way to stop the offensive coordinator from even calling plays that take a while to develop. But, Cuse likes to run three step drops with throws down the sideline to Jamal Custis. Louisville doesn’t have a cornerback that has shown that they can defend those types of passes. The Orange also has guys that work the middle of the field really well and can catch the ball and run after the catch. The tackling for UofL has been getting worse as the season has gone on, so I could see Dungey benefiting from those “YAC” plays.