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Opponent Breakdown: Syracuse Orange Defense

The bright spot for Syracuse this year is that their new defensive scheme is working.

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

Dino Babers did something this past year that I think plenty of offensive coaches don’t always have the guts to do. He fired his Defensive Coordinator and he did whatever it took to get a guy that ran the specific system he wanted to run his defense. It took him a while to get his guy but the system has worked well even in a year where injuries have decimated that side of the ball. Syracuse might not be where they want to be on defense, but they’re much more competent this year and they have a system that has shown to be good at getting negative plays.

The most veteran group on this entire team is the Defensive Line. Joshua Black is a long time starter who is now playing Defensive End in the new three-man front. He joins McKinley Williams and Kingsley Jonathan to form a pretty good group up front. They’ve done a good job of being disruptive up front but they haven’t adapted enough to get to the passer. It’s a similar issue we’ve seen with Louisville as they moved to a new scheme. The guys they have don’t really fit things well but they’re showing flashes.

Mikel Jones is going to be a star in the ACC, in my opinion. He is the weakside backer for the Orange and he is a great play maker. Jones was a four star recruit until it became obvious that he was picking Syracuse and he’s lived up to his recruitment. He leads Syracuse in interceptions, tackles, QB hurries, and forced fumbles. He will be such a key player as a guy who can really run and close down backside running lanes.

The rest of the Linebackers are solid but not really making the plays you want to see in this scheme. They play a handful of different guys and all of them are very young. Louisville’s run game should work well this week and misdirection plays should be effective as well.

Syracuse’s secondary is an absolute mess right now. Trill Williams declared for the draft a couple of weeks ago joining Andre Cisco in doing so. That leaves four of the five starting spots in the secondary to freshmen to occupy. As guys have dropped off, you can see how much it has changed things for this defense. They had been leading the country in takeaways early in the year but only have three over their last three games. They’re also trending negatively on third downs and they’re allowing Quarterbacks to complete a higher percentage of their passes.

The issue for Louisville is that Syracuse is allowing fewer yards per catch over the last few games. That means they’re taking away the big plays. Can Louisville take what the defense is giving them and develop a short passing game?