LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (6-4, 4-3) vs. SYRACUSE ORANGE (4-6, 1-5)
Game Time: 4 p.m.
Location: Cardinal Stadium: Louisville, Ky.
Television: ACC Network
Announcers: Chris Cotter, Mark Herzlich and Kelsey Riggs
Favorite: Louisville by 9
All-Time Series: Louisville leads, 10-7
Last Meeting: Syracuse won 54-23 on Nov. 9, 2018 in Syracuse
Louisville Depth Chart:
Game Day Guide:
Dino Babers had an unbelievable 2018 season that led to a lot of high expectations for the 2019 season. Those expectations haven’t been met and it’s been really hard to figure out how his offense has fallen so far in one off season. He lost his star quarterback in Eric Dungey but I don’t think anyone expected things to be so rough without him. Babers and his team put together their best performance of the year so I’m sure he’s hoping he has figured some things out that can continue down the stretch.
Babers was able to land Tommy Devito as a recruit three years ago and it seemed like he had the perfect replacement for Dungey. Devito was a four star recruit with a solid offer list and he had enough athleticism that he could likely run the same offense as Dungey. He played well against last year when Dungey was injured so it was fair to expect them to have a smooth transition. That hasn’t really happened. So far this year, he is only completing 59% of his passes against power five teams and he has only thrown 9 touchdowns in those seven games. He also has negative rushing yards against power five teams on the year.
Devito also seems to have a poor relationship with his receivers. In at least two of their games, I’ve watched as receivers have shown open disdain towards him and he’s done the same at times. Devito apparently has a lot of “Jersey Shore” in him so maybe he’s a hard guy to get along with. Either way, it has been weird to see these guys have these issues out in the open.
Syracuse has decided that running the ball is a good idea over the last couple of weeks. Moe Neal had nearly 100 yards at halftime last week after putting up 72 yards against FSU two games earlier. Neal is a quick back with good speed if he gets into space. I’ve been wondering why they don’t utilize him more for a couple of years now but Babers seems to be committed to running the football now. Abdul Adams is also a solid back who gets a handful of carries a game. Adams was expected to make a bigger splash after transferring from Oklahoma but that hasn’t happened so far. I would be surprised if Babers doesn’t look to run the ball a lot this weekend.
The Orange lost a good amount of production at the receiver spot but they got a nice addition in Trishton Jackson. Jackson transferred in from Michigan State and he’s put up numbers that are comparable to Tutu Atwell. Jackson has taken on the role as the deep threat for this team but he can do a bit of everything for them. Sean Riley is back as the slot guy for the Orange. He hasn’t been nearly as productive as he was last year and he definitely isn’t the threat for the big play like he was last year. Riley is only averaging 7 yards per catch and he only has one touchdown on the year. Taj Harris is the other outside receiver for the team and he’s having a solid year. This group as a whole is a bit of a boom or bust group. They have had some big plays but they disappear at times.
Syracuse has the worst offensive line in the country. They’re allowing 4.6 sacks per game which is the most of any team since 2012. They’re starting freshmen at both tackle spots and it’s been quite bad all season for the group. More than half of the tackles for loss they’ve given up have been sacks and the lack of protection makes the entire offense struggle. Cuse has to rely on short passes only and the throws down the field are few and far between. Duke was only able to get on sack on this line last week so the hope has to be that they haven’t figured things out all of a sudden.
Syracuse fired their defensive coordinator a few weeks ago and the defense put together it’s best performance since 2014 in their first game without him. So it looks like Dino Babers made the right choice. The Orange were coming off a game where they gave up 496 rushing yards to Boston College. BC ran the same play over and over again and The Orange couldn’t stop it. Against Duke, they were opportunistic and they played much faster than they looked previously. It might be just a one game flash against a bad offense but it was a good sign for this group.
Syracuse has an extremely veteran defense and it starts up front with a defensive line that starts four 4th year players. Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman are two of the better defensive ends in the ACC and as a combo you could argue that Syracuse has one of the best duos in the country. Robinson and Coleman haven’t been as productive as they were last year but they do have 16.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks between them. Brandon Berry has been a player that has added some value this year. He leads the team in sacks as a rotation guy. As good as this pass rush can be, they are averaging less than two sacks per game against power five teams this year. They’ve feasted on some cupcakes so far.
In the interior, Josh Black is a solid nose tackle who has made some plays this year. I can’t help but think that the issues the Orange have had against the run are due to their line being a bit undersized and also more of the type of guys that are looking to make plays as opposed to eating up blocks. They’ve had some strong games this year but overall, these guys have been pushed around a bit. I’m not sure if it would actually be helpful that they look to make plays with UofL’s zone scheme but they’re allowing 5.46 yards per carry against power five team. That’s not a great sign for this group.
Syracuse had to replace Their starting linebackers from last year but they’e gotten nice production from the two seniors that are starting for them. Lakiem Williams leads the team with 91 tackles and 10 tackles for loss. The middle linebacker spot in this defense always seems to put up crazy numbers and Williams has been no different. Andrew Armstrong played a lot last year and he stepped into the starting spot well. Armstrong is second on the team in tackles and has 7 tackles for loss and an interception. Louisville worked hard to take advantage of NC State’s youth at linebacker last week. I think they’ll look to make these guys cover as well. They’re not the best in that area.
The secondary for Syracuse returned a bunch of guys from last year but the numbers haven’t been all that good for the group. Christopher Fredrick is the veteran of the group at corner and he leads the team with 6 PBUs on the year. Ifeatu Melifonwu starts on the other side and rotates some with Antwon Cordy. Cordy is the only player that should be allowed to be mentioned in a “that guy has been there forever” joke. He’s been there for 6 years and he’s a guy that seems to always be around the ball. Cordy will play inside and outside and can also play safety. He’s one of the few guys that might actually be able to hang with Tutu Atwell or Dez Fitzpatrick in the middle of the field.
Safety is a solid spot for the Orange. Andre Cisco was a freshman All-American last year when he had 7 picks and he had a pick-six last weekend. Evan Foster lines up at the other safety spot and they make a nice combination with Foster being more of a blunt object type of safety who likes to come up and make plays in run support. Both of these guys can make plays that can change a game. They also have great versatility with Trill Williams as a good nickel guy. That allows Cordy to play in other spots and get more speed on the field.
Excitement Level: 8.0
Last chance to watch Cardinal football inside Cardinal Stadium for nine and-a-half months. A chance to bid farewell to senior class that has been on as wild a ride as any in the history of a program. A chance to lock up second place in the Atlantic Division and take a step up in bowl tier. And we’re also bringing the baby to a game for the first time. Should be a nice little Saturday.
Game Attire: Red U of L pullover under black U of L jacket, grey Cardinal bird hat
Would love to rock the straight red for the seniors, but it’s gonna be nippy, gotta go with the big late season game jacket.
Pregame Meal: Media food
I’m on the 790 pregame show from 1-2:30 and we’re doing it from the press box. I will be shamelessly taking food at some point.
Bold Prediction: Ryan Chalifoux doesn’t miss a field goal
Look, we know he can pass ... it’s time to prove he can kick.
Ty Tyler Sack Alert Level: Silver (bad)
Last week, for the first time this season, our guy didn’t see the field. The alert level has taken note.
Predicted Star of the Game: Micale Cunningham
I know it’s Senior Day, but the sophomore is gonna cook.
—A win by Louisville on Saturday would ensure that the Cardinals will finish in second place in the ACC’s Atlantic Division. U of L was picked to finish last in the division at the start of the season.
—A win by Louisville would give the Cards a 5-3 mark in ACC play, tying for the second-best league record a U of L team has had since joining the conference in 2014. Louisville finished 5-3 in both 2014 and 2015. In 2016, U of L went 7-1 and tied with eventual national champion Clemson for the Atlantic Division crown.
—Last week’s win at NC State made Louisville bowl eligible for the 18th time in the last 22 years. A year ago, the Cardinals saw their streak of eight consecutive seasons with a bowl appearance snapped.
—Javian Hawkins is the first U of L running back to reach the 1,000-yard mark since Bilal Powell totaled 1,405 yards in 2010. Hawkins, who has 1,045 yards this season, needs three yards to break the school’s single season freshman rushing record of 1,047 yards set by Victor Anderson in 2008.
—Syracuse, which won 49-6 at Duke last week, hasn’t won back-to-back road games since the end of the 2012 regular season.
—In nine out of Syracuse’s 10 games this season there has not been a lead change. Only against Boston College on Nov. 2 did the lead change hands. The Orange and Eagles alternated the advantage four times in the first half.
—Louisville is 5-0 this season when scoring first, and 1-4 when allowing their opponents to score first.
—The team that has scored first has won all 10 of Syracuse’s games this season.
—Louisville is 5-0 this season when winning the turnover battle, and just 1-4 when losing it.
—Syracuse coach Dino Babers is 26-1 in his career when the opposing team fails to score 20 points. His only loss in that scenario occurred earlier this season when NC State defeated the Orange, 16-10.
—Louisville’s TuTu Atwell is one of three players in the FBS with three receptions that have gone for 70 yards or more this season.
—As a team, Syracuse has attempted 169 consecutive passes without throwing an interception. Starting QB Tommy DeVito has thrown 146 of those, the third-longest streak of attempts without an interception in the FBS.
—Syracuse CB Christopher Fredrick has started 41 consecutive games, the longest streak of starts by any active cornerback in the FBS.
—Louisville is 3-0 on the ACC Network this season, and the Cardinal football and men’s basketball teams are a combined 7-0 on the network.
—Louisville will honor its 26 seniors during a ceremony before the start of Saturday’s game.
—Louisville owns a 57-42-1 all-time record on Senior Day and has won four of its last six.
—Syracuse’s 49-6 win over Duke last week was the Orange’s largest margin of victory over an FBS opponent since beating Buffalo 63-7 in 2000.
—In his seven seasons as a head coach, Scott Satterfield’s teams are 46-3 when scoring 30 or more points.
—Louisville is 4-0 this season when leading at halftime.
—The Cards are also 4-0 this season as a favorite.
—In seven seasons as a head coach, Scott Satterfield owns a 39-9 record in conference play.
—Satterfield is 20-6 during the month of November as a head coach.
—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 247 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, and the 14th-longest nationally.
—Louisville is 187-13 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 6-115 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
—“We know we will get their best shot. Coach Babers has done a great job with that program. I know those kids have a lot of fight. We have to come out here mentally saying we have to play our best game. That’s where we want to be this weekend.” —Scott Satterfield
—“The offense that we’re about to play is a lot better than the offense we just played. They’ve got some cats and they can do some things.” —Syracuse head coach Dino Babers
—“They are lightning fast, lightning fast. If they get out in space, there’s going to be trouble.” —Syracuse head coach Dino Babers
—“It’s a really good feeling to be bowl eligible. It’s a great feeling. It’s good to see all the hard work when we first got here with the guys.” —Dwayne Ledford
—“I feel like we played a complete game last week, which allowed us to come out with a big win. We feel rejuvenated.” —Syracuse CB Andre Cisco
—“At this point, the season hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to. We have nothing to lose. I tell the guys all the time, we need to act like we’re 7 years old again and just go out there and play football, have fun, relax and do what we do.” —Syracuse RB Moe Neal
—“I appreciate these seniors that have stuck around for us, been through all this, and that’s not easy for them. This is probably the toughest group. To be able to say HERE comes a new staff another new coach, and hear they are going to play just the young guys. Which really, we want to play the best guys. We really didn’t care. We gave everybody an opportunity. So, I hope these guys have enjoyed it and this season. I’m happy for them. They got to extend it. They get to go play one more bowl game. I’m just appreciative of what they are. I told them, listen in five, ten, fifteen years from now, you guys come back here, and we hope we are still supporting you all in everything you are doing in your life. As a father, husband, and a career person.” —Scott Satterfield
Card Chronicle Prediction: Louisville 33, Syracuse 21
I was all set to pick a “Syracuse 2-1” final score or some bullshit if we had lost last week. I feel very grateful that I don’t have to do that.