LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (2-6, 1-6) vs. SYRACUSE ORANGE (1-7, 1-6)
Game Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Cardinal Stadium: Louisville, Ky.
Announcers: Anish Shroff (play-by-play), Tom Luginbill (analyst), and Katie George (analyst)
Favorite: Louisville by 19
All-Time Series: Louisville leads, 11-7
Last Meeting: Louisville won 56-34 on Nov. 23, 2019 in Louisville
Louisville Depth Chart:
Dino Babers has a long history of strong offenses but this year he is having what has to be the worst year of his career as it pertains to the offensive side of the ball. Syracuse has one of the worst offenses in the country and their average of 4.4 yards per play would be the worst in Power Five football if not for Kansas being a perpetual dumpster fire. Babers has gotten a free pass this year, and rightfully so, as his team has been decimated by injuries and opt-outs. His offense seems to have few positives this year but his scheme has shown the ability to score points with minimal talent.
The Quarterback position was viewed as a position of strength at the beginning of this season with Tommy DeVito returning as the starter. That didn’t last long as DeVito was fairly ineffective before being injured a few weeks back. Rex Culpepper played well as a backup but as the starter, he has run into the same issues that DeVito had. Culpepper has more interceptions than touchdowns and he’s completing fewer than half of his passes. It’s been a nightmare under center for Cuse.
Louisville will likely see Jacobian Morgan at QB as Culpepper was out two weeks ago and Morgan took all of the snaps. Morgan played pretty well against a solid Boston College defense. He completed 63% of his passes and had a late touchdown. His one interception was very bad but he was at least forcing the ball to his best receiver. Morgan isn’t a great runner but he can scramble a bit and has good speed once he gets going. Louisville should look to pressure him as much as possible as he struggled mightily with guys in his face.
The Orange are down to a true freshman and a converted Wide Receiver as their top two Running Backs this season. Sean Tucker was a solid recruiting win for Cuse but I’m sure the staff expected him to be deeper down the depth chart this summer. After losing their top two runners to opt-outs, Babers had to adjust things in a hurry. Instead of this being a position of strength that could help take the pressure off of the passing game, it’s an inconsistent part of the offense that they can’t truly rely on.
Wide Receiver is the best unit on this offense. Taj Harris is one of the best deep threats in the ACC and when he has his head in the game he’s very dangerous. Harris has great speed and he’s more elusive after the catch than he seems. If Morgan can get comfortable in his third game, Harris is the guy that for UofL to worry about.
Anthony Queeley and Nykeim Johnson are the other two receivers that Louisville needs to look out for. Johnson is a speedy slot player that is always a threat to break a big play. He is also a threat as a return man. Queeley has stepped up as the second option this year and is averaging about 3 catches per game.
The Syracuse Offensive Line is still bad but they have improved a lot after having a pretty terrible 2019 season. Their change at Center last year seems to have been the reason for the improvement but they are now starting a converted Fullback/Defensive End at Left Guard, so that explains what kind of shape they’re in. They still give up a bunch of sacks but I would argue that much of their issues stem from Quarterbacks holding onto the ball for too long. Louisville has to get pressure and get negative plays this week.
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?
Excitement Level: 3.5
Being able to eat, drink and watch the Cards on a Friday night is the only thing keeping this above a three.
Game Attire: Red Louisville Football sweatshirt
Bringing the Charlie Strong era back.
Pregame Meal: Chicken wings
We’ve got family pics, then making chicken wings, then watching the Cards whomp on the Orange. Nice little Friday.
Bold Prediction: Louisville wins by four scores or more.
Last week’s bold prediction was multiple made field goals by James Turner. Despite a make very early in the game, we still (read: I still) wound up falling to 0-for-8 on the season on our (read: mine) BPs.
Streak ends tonight. Cards are rolling.
Justin Marshall TD Alert Level: Light Chrome Green (Low)
JMTAL is starting to lose a little bit of faith.
Predicted Star of the Game: Jack Fagot
Why the hell not? The Fagoat is going off tonight.
—Louisville is a perfect 1-0 in games against ACC Atlantic Division opponents so far this season. The quest for perfection continues tonight.
—Louisville is 50-32-1 overall all-time in Friday night games, and 32-18 in Friday night games played at home. The Cards lost on the road to Georgia Tech on a Friday night earlier this season.
—Louisville is 12-11 in televised Friday night games on ESPN/ESPN2
—Syracuse has won five of its last six Friday games and holds a 6-2 Friday record under head coach Dino Babers. Some of the Orange’s recent highlight wins have come on Friday nights, including a 27-24 win against No. 2 Clemson in 2017 and the 2018 Camping World Bowl victory over West Virginia.
—Under Scott Satterfield, Louisville is 8-0 when winning the turnover battle, and just 1-10 when losing it. The Cards have failed to win the turnover battle a single time in 2020.
—Louisville ranks dead last in the FBS in turnover margin at -12.
—In eight seasons as a head coach, Scott Satterfield’s teams are 50-5 when scoring 30 or more points. Louisville is 9-2 in such games under Satterfield, with the two losses coming earlier this season against Miami and Virginia Tech.
—Louisville has only forced six turnovers this season, the fewest of any team in the ACC.
—The Syracuse defense leads the nation in forced turnovers with 17.
—Louisville will be wearing 1950s-era throwback uniforms for this game.
—This will be just the second time this season that Syracuse has played a game in front of fans. Clemson is the only other Orange opponent who has allowed fans to attend home games this season.
—Since moving to the ACC, Louisville is 5-1 against Syracuse and is averaging 44.3 points per game against the Orange. The Cards’ five victories have come by an average of 27.6 points.
—Syracuse coach Dino Babers is 26-2 in his career when the opposing team fails to score 20 points. One of those losses came in the Orange’s most recent game, a 16-13 loss to Boston College.
—Louisville is 0-6 under Scott Satterfield when being held to 21 points or fewer.
—Syracuse is 15-5 (.750) in its last 20 weekday games, a stretch beginning with the team’s victory over Kansas State in the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl.
—Syracuse is 4-4 against the spread this season and hasn’t been favored in a game all year.
—Louisville is 27-29 overall in ACC games since joining the conference in 2014.
—Louisville has not lost to Syracuse at home since a 38-35 loss in 2007 that at the time was the largest point spread upset in the history of college football. The Cards have won five straight over the Orange in the Derby City since.
— In 1989, the Orange defeated the Cardinals 24-13 at the Coca-Cola Bowl in Tokyo, Japan. It’s the only time either program has played a game outside of North America.
—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 258 games dating back to a 31-0 loss to Florida State during the 2000 season. The streak ranks as the second longest in the ACC behind only Virginia Tech, and the 12th-longest in the country.
—Louisville is 191-14 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 6-119 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
—“So much of what we’re going through with the wins and losses doesn’t have to do with effort. A lot of it is just the mistakes that we’ve had. We’re just trying to stay positive when they come into the building and to keep moving forward. Another opportunity again this week against Syracuse, and we’re looking forward to that.” —Scott Satterfield
—“The opportunity to go out and play the game we love is all you can ask for, really. I think there is a lot of potential on this team and obviously everyone has an extra year of eligibility, so we can build on next year and finish this year strong.” —Syracuse tight end Aaron Hackett
—“We’re planning on playing the best we can. We’re going out to finish the season good.” Syracuse DL Kingsley Jonathan
—“A lot of times when you see turnovers, you see guys trying to do a little bit extra. We as an offense have to do a better job of making sure that we keep those fundamentals of taking care of the ball.” —Dwayne Ledford
—”Syracuse has had some struggles this year as well. It seems they’ve had a lot of guys opt-out as well, early and late. And I think what Dino (Babers) has done is put some young guys out there. I thought they played their best game against Boston College two weeks ago.” —Scott Satterfield
“We don’t quit, regardless of where we are in the game or where we are in the season, we’re in there to fight. We’re in there to try not to give up points on the defense and we’re in there to score on the offense, that’s something that’s never going to change regardless of what’s going on. I’m proud of the guys that are fighting as young guys, freshmen, coming in to play and not giving up in situations and still pushing for a win.” —Syracuse DL Kingsley Jonathan
Card Chronicle Prediction: Louisville 44, Syracuse 13
If we lose this one, I won’t pick us to win another game this season. That’s a promise from me to you.