LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (2-7, 0-6) At No. 13 SYRACUSE ORANGE (7-2, 4-2)
Game Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Carrier Dome: Syracuse, N.Y.
Announcers: Jason Benetti (play-by-play), Kelly Stouffer (analyst), and Olivia Dekker (sideline)
Favorite: Syracuse by 20
All-Time Series: Louisville leads, 10-6
Last Meeting: Louisville won 56-10 on Nov. 18, 2017 in Louisville
Louisville Depth Chart:
Dino Babers has a background in “Air Raid” offenses but he has fielded a much more balanced attack this year at Syracuse. The Orange are coming off of a game where they ran the ball 60 times and they utilize their running backs very well this year. Louisville hasn’t been able to stop anyone from running the football so that focus on balance my pay off for Cuse.
The offense is led by Eric Dungey for the 31st straight year. Dungey has been able to stay pretty healthy this season for the first time in his career and the team is finally turning the corner. Dungey has also done a much better job this season with protecting the football. He has only thrown four interceptions this year and he hasn’t been as reckless when it comes to fumbles. Louisville will have to find a way to slow Dungey down as a runner as well as a passer.
Cuse is using Moe Neal much more this season and it has resulted in about 40 more rushing yards per game. I wondered aloud last season why they didn’t run the guy averaging over five yards per carry more often and maybe Dino reads my stuff because they’ve made him the primary back and he’s still averaging five yards per carry with more carries per game. Neal is a speedy back that fits the hurry up/spread scheme that they run very well. He can also be used in the passing game. Syracuse ran the ball a lot to keep Wake Forest off the field last week and I wouldn’t be surprised if they do the same on Friday.
Syracuse lost most of their production from the receivers this offseason but they haven’t skipped a beat this year with the guys who have taken over. Jamal Custis and Sean Riley are the key guys but the depth at the position has really stood out to me. Cuse was so reliant on two guys over the last two seasons but they can spread the ball around more this year and they can rely on other guys to make big plays for the offense. Custis will be a big key on deep throws down the sideline. UofL hasn’t been tested too much this year but they will definitely see those go routes this week. Riley and Nykeim Johnson are the guys that will do a lot of damage in the middle of the field. I think they could both have huge games.
The veteran offensive line for Syracuse has been solid in some areas and not so solid in others. They have given up 23 sacks this year but I do think that some of those are due to Dungey holding onto the ball. They’re much better when you look at total negative plays and I don’t think that Louisville is playing well enough to actually take advantage of any deficiencies they have on the line. UofL’s best shot of doing any damage is to get to Dungey on throws where he’s looking to stretch the field.
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 Colemanare 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.
Excitement Level: 2.1
I’d rather not.
Game Attire: Red U of L hoodie, grey cardinal bird sweatpants
Rolling home from radio, getting comfy, settling in for what will more than likely be an dissatisfying evening.
Pregame Meal: Feast BBQ
More than one beer as well.
Bold Prediction: Blanton Creque makes at least three field goals
Keep getting that shine, young man.
Rodjay Burns Kick/Punt Touchdown Return Alert Level: Lavender (decent)
If a couple of guys will block for him, he’s got a shot.
Predicted Star of the Game: Blanton Creque
The golden left foot remains perfect on the year.
—Louisville is in the midst of its first six-game since 1997. The Cardinals haven’t lost seven consecutive games since 1964.
—A loss would guarantee that Louisville will finish the 2018 season without a road win. That hasn’t happened since 1997.
—Syracuse is the only Atlantic Division opponent that Louisville has a perfect record against since joining the conference in 2014.
—Louisville is 0-6 in league play for the first time since finishing 0-6 in Conference USA and 1-10 overall in 1997.
—Syracuse is looking to finish its home slate with a perfect record inside the Carrier Dome.
—The Orange are already bowl eligible for the first time since 2013.
—Syracuse is 13-3 in weekday games dating back to its 36-34 victory in the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl over Kansas State, and including a 55-42 Friday night triumph at Western Michigan on Aug. 31.
—Under Bobby Petrino, Louisville is 10-1 all-time in Friday night games. Their only loss came earlier this season against Georgia Tech.
—Syracuse’s No. 13 ranking is its highest AP ranking since being ranked No. 11 on Sept. 28, 1998.
—Louisville is allowing 48.7 points per game during this six-game losing streak, giving up over 50 points on three occasions, including 77 versus Clemson last week. The Cardinals are being outscored 154-47 in the second half over the last six games.
—Syracuse is +12 in turnover margin, the best mark in the ACC and tied for fifth nationally.
—Louisville is 5-19-1 against the spread in its last 15 games, and has only covered the spread once this season.
—Bobby Petrino can become the 12th active coach with 120 career wins if Louisville defeats Clemson. He’s 119-54 lifetime, including 77-33 in two stints with the Cardinals.
—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 234 games dating back to a 31-0 loss to Florida State during the 2000 season. The streak ranks as the third longest in the ACC behind only Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.
—Louisville is 183-13 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 5-110 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
—“We’re not taking Louisville lightly. People are talking about, ‘Oh, Louisville’s not that great this year.’ I don’t think that’s true at all. They’ve got a lot of great athletes, a lot of experience as well, and I think they’re hungry for a win. We were that team once, where nobody respected us.” —Syracuse head coach Dino Babers
—“Their offense is very explosive. They score a lot of points in the Dome. They have a quarterback (Eric Dungey) we know well. He can run the ball, throw the ball, and gets the ball out of his hand quickly. It’s defensively a big challenge for us.” —Bobby Petrino
—“I think it’s going to be an emotional night, definitely, with all that I’ve been through here. I’m just thankful for everything. It’s going to be overwhelming with the emotions.” —Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey
—“It really depends on whether they really respect what you’re doing or they really think you’re capable of doing what you’re doing. That comes back to how the other guys see whether you can operate efficiently at that level, at a high level, or whether they feel you cannot operate efficiently at a high level.” —Syracuse head coach Dino Babers
—“One of the challenges this week is how fast they play. They will play as fast as anyone we have went against. Eric Dungey knows how to execute that offense and work it. We can’t give up the big explosive plays, and get them into third and long.” —Bobby Petrino
—”We were in here yesterday and I put up the score of the 2017 game. And then I started asking guys, ‘How many people in here have beaten the Louisville Cardinals?’ And then I started putting up the yardage from those games.” —Syracuse head coach Dino Babers
Card Chronicle Prediction: Syracuse 45, Louisville 19