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What To Watch For: Syracuse Orange

Another game where turnovers are the big story.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

CAN LOUISVILLE NOT TURN THE BALL OVER?

Louisville has the worst turnover margin in the country. They haven’t turned their opponent over enough but the real issue is the consistency in which they give the ball away. UofL has turned the ball over at least one time in every game this season save the Notre Dame game. That ended up being the closest game of the season. At this point, you have to wonder if it’s just a feature of the offense and not a bug.

Malik Cunningham has been particularly bad when it comes to protecting the football as a passer and a runner. He has failed to identify defenders and he has been too cavalier when he’s throwing the ball down the field. Louisville needs the guy who touches the ball every play to protect it like he understands that fact.

BRYAN BROWN WILL GET AFTER THE QUARTERBACK

Syracuse will be starting Jacobian Morgan for the second straight game and the true freshman will see a lot of blitzes from Louisville. Bryan Brown has grown more confident in his secondary as the year has gone on and Morgan won’t likely be very comfortable with finding receivers quickly.

He held his own against Boston College two weeks ago but Morgan doesn’t look comfortable in the pocket yet and he didn’t look very good throwing the ball down the field. Morgan did impress me with his ability to keep his eyes down the field once he got outside of the pocket but I think Brown would be fine risking those plays now that his secondary is playing better.

I also expect Brown to throw some zone looks at Morgan on long yardage plays to try to confuse him. With the defense being mostly healthy and available, he should have guys out there that know how to play those coverages.

SERIOUSLY, CAN LOUISVILLE NOT TURN THE BALL OVER?

Syracuse is second in the country in takeaways. However, with all of their injuries, they will be playing four freshmen in the secondary and no upperclassmen outside of their Defensive Line. Andre Cisco, who has like 50 interceptions in his two-plus years at Cuse has opted out after suffering an injury. Trill Williams has done the same. Mikel Jones is a guy who can make plays in coverage and against the run at Linebacker but this defense is struggling right now.

I think that playing a clean game could go a long way for this offense as they close the season. Avoiding turnovers could help demoralize a reeling defense and maybe gets the offense in a groove that could lead to a big day.

LOUISVILLE WILL PLAY YOUNGER PLAYERS IF THIS GAME GETS OUT OF HAND

Louisville has played a lot of young guys this season but they haven’t done so consistently. We’ve seen guys like Jordan Watkins and Dez Tell play a lot of snaps and start in some games. Others like Josh Minkins, Ja’Darien Boykin, Jalen Mitchell, and Lovie Jenkins have seen some snaps and some rotational action. I think we’ll see more young guys play this weekend if Louisville gets a big lead.

Louisville isn’t going to throw in the towel and just start benching veteran players but they do have to get game reps for guys on the Offensive Line and at the Linebacker spots. Louisville won’t likely get any seniors back next year even though they will have the option to stick around. That means that they need to find opportunities to get the guys who will replace them on the field. Guys like Monty Montgomery and Rob Hicks have gotten plenty of snaps this year but what about Josh Black, Trevor Reid, Dorian Jones, and others?

I think this game could provide a great opportunity to get the guys who will be pushing for starting jobs or rotation positions next year playing time that they can then critique in the film room. Practice reps are important but getting these guys in live action situations where they can give real feedback on what they can work on is really important, in my opinion.