LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (4-5, 2-4) vs. SYRACUSE ORANGE (5-4, 2-4)
Game Time: Noon
Location: Cardinal Stadium: Louisville, Ky.
Television: Regional Sports Networks
Announcers: Evan Lepler (play-by-play), Brian Jordan (analyst) and Wiley Ballard (sideline)
Favorite: Louisville by 3
All-Time Series: Louisville leads, 12-7
Last Meeting: Louisville won 30-0 on Nov. 20, 2020 in Louisville
Louisville Depth Chart:
Excitement Level: 5.9
It’d be cute to do an 8.0 here for Lamar, but it’d also be disingenuous. I’m excited for the Lamar festivities and for the opportunity to get back into the win column, but I’d also be lying if I said the last several weeks hadn’t taken a significant chunk of the pep out of the Excitement Level’s step.
Game Attire: Red Lamar leap shirt underneath red Louisville sweatshirt
Sticking with the sweatshirt look, but going away from the Charlie Strong era version. The Lamar shirt is a no-brainer.
Pregame Meal: Coffee and a bagel
The nooner staple.
Bold Prediction: Malik Cunningham has over 400 yards of total offense
We’re 0-for-9 but we’re still swinging big.
Justin Marshall TD Alert Level: Gray (below average)
Marshall has become a more utilized weapon in the air attack in recent weeks, but the Alert Level still isn’t feeling it for this game.
Predicted Star of the Game: Malik Cunningham
Can’t make that bold prediction and go with anyone else. Time to your best Lamar impression on Lamar Day.
Dino Babers and his high tempo spread passing attack are coming to Lousiville with the intention to run the ball as much as possible. It’s weird. Syracuse has been a pass-heavy offense for years now but Babers has one of the best rushing attacks in the country and he went all-in on it early this season. His offense has seen great results and the Orange are riding a two-game winning streak into this weekend.
Tommy Devito was viewed as the future of the program when he signed with Cuse a few years back but injuries hindered his career. Though he was healthy this year, Babers made the call to move on to Mississippi State transfer Garrett Shrader, a much better runner, even though he hasn’t shown the ability to be a consistent passer. Shrader can really kill you with his legs, though. He is averaging 5.58 yards per carry and he has three 100-yard rushing games on the season.
The key to the Orange offense is Sean Tucker. The second-leading rusher in the country is one of the most consistent players in the country and he is unbelievably productive. Tucker is the national leader in yards from scrimmage and no one is particularly close to him. Cuse has not only utilized him as a runner but he can catch the ball and make a play in space as well. Tucker is the most valuable offensive player that Louisville has faced this year and they have to find a way to slow him down.
The Orange passing attack lost some firepower when Taj Harris entered the transfer portal earlier this season. They don’t have a receiver on the roster right now that has shown the ability to threaten a defense consistently. However, Cuse does have some guys with experience and ability. Anthony Qeeley finished last season with 37 catches and he is the second leading wide receiver this season. Courtney Jackson has a lot of potential but probably needs another year before he can become the go-to receiver for the offense. But these guys can run and get open and we’ve seen UofL struggle to slow down some bad passing offenses this season.
The Orange offensive line has been fairly putrid over the last few years but the shift to the rushing attack has really allowed them to show what they can do. The group gets a boost with Chris Elmore essentially being an extra lineman at his tight end position. This allows them to just move opposing defenses out off the line and clear running lanes for Tucker and Shrader. Louisville has to force long third downs to make this line prove that they can protect Shrader in the pocket.
Louisville Football has a young roster. Syracuse has an absurdly young roster. The Orange defensive depth chart has 16 players that are listed as freshmen or sophomores and they will have plenty of true freshmen that will play important roles on the defensive side of the ball. While Cuse has had some ups and downs on defense this year, Dino Babers has to be happy with the performance of his group this year.
The defensive front is where the Orange shine. Josh Black is a veteran of the program and he has remained a consistent performer during his time there. He has six tackles for loss on the year and leads a really impressive group. Cody Roscoe is an outstanding pass rusher He is tied with Yasir Abdullah for the ACC lead in tackles for loss. Black and Roscoe are one of the best defensive end combos UofL has seen this year. The Orange also have Kingsley Jonathan who is no slouch himself.
One of my favorite players in the ACC is Mikel Jones. The Sophomore leads the team with 79 tackles and he is all over the field any time you watch the Orange. Jones is similar to James Skalski in the way that he can blow up an offensive game plan. UofL has to account for him. Stefon Thompson and Marlowe Max are also really impressive players on the outside. Louisville worked the edges well last weekend but I think they could have some of the issues they had against NC State with this scheme and the speed the Orange have.
The youngest group on the defense is the secondary. That was the case last season and Louisville quarterbacks completed 70% of their passes. Things could be different this year as Syracuse has Duce Chestnut playing at a high level as a true freshman at one spot and Garrett Williams with a full year of experience at the other corner spot. Williams picked off Malik Cunningham last year and he’s become more of a complete corner with 5 tackles for loss and 8 PBUs. UofL looked to exploit this group last year but they ended up with two interceptions. That can’t happen against an improved Syracuse team this season.
The safety group is solid but they’ve lost a lot of talent from the previous few seasons. The group as a whole hasn’t made a lot of plays this season and I think they have been able to ride a very good pass rush when it comes to pass defense and a fantastic linebacker group when it comes to run defense. If there is an area that UofL can look to take advantage of it’s the back end of the defense.
—Louisville will retire former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Lamar Jackson’s No. 8 during a halftime ceremony on Saturday. Jackson will become just the second U of L player to have his number retired, joining the legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas.
—Louisville is 6-1 against Syracuse since joining the ACC in 2014.
—Because of last season’s odd scheduling, this will be the third straight home game Louisville has played against Syracuse despite the pair being Atlantic Division foes who meet on an annual basis.
—Over the last two seasons, Louisville has played eight games in which it has out-gained its opponent and still lost. No other FBS program has done this more than five times over the same span.
—In nine of its last 14 losses overall, Louisville has out-gained its opponent.
—Syracuse freshman RB Sean Tucker is second in the nation in rushing with 1,267 yards.
—Tucker is just 106 yards away from breaking Syracuse’s single-season rushing record.
—Tucker ranks second in the nation in rushing yards per game (140.8), and was the first player in the FBS this season to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark.
—Under Scott Satterfield, Louisville is 12-2 when winning the turnover battle, and just 2-14 when losing it. One of those losses came last week against Clemson, when the Cardinals committed zero turnovers and took the ball away from the Tigers once.
—Louisville is a 3-point favorite in this game according to DraftKings Sportsbook. The Cardinals are 3-1 straight up as a favorite so far this season, and 2-1 as a home favorite.
—Syracuse’s backfield duo of RB Sean Tucker and QB Garret Shrader have rushed for a combined 1,937 yards, which is the most for any two FBS teammates. The next closest are Abram Smith and Trestan Ebner from Baylor (1,656).
—Shrader was Mississippi State’s starting QB in 2019, but did not play in the team’s Music City Bowl loss to Louisville after being involved in a post-practice fight with a teammate. Shrader transferred from Mississippi State after the season.
—Louisville is 5-0 under Scott Satterfield when scoring 40-49 points, and 2-0 when scoring 50 or more.
—The Syracuse defense ranks fourth in the nation in total sacks with 33.
—In eight seasons as a head coach, Scott Satterfield’s teams are 55-7 when scoring 30 or more points. Louisville is 14-4 in such games under Satterfield, but has lost two in a row — a 37-34 loss to Wake Forest and a 34-33 loss to Virginia.
—Saturday will be Dino Babers’ 70th game as Syracuse’s head coach.
—Babers is just 1-4 in games against Louisville.
—Louisville will honor former head coach Howard Schnellenberger, who died on March 27, with a helmet sticker that will be worn for the entirety of the 2021 season.
—In its last six games against Syracuse, Louisville is averaging 44.7 points per contest.
—Syracuse does not have a player from the state of Kentucky on its roster, and Louisville does not have a player from the state of New York.
—The winning team in five of the last eight meetings in this series has scored 40 or more points.
—Louisville is 31-33 in league games since joining the ACC in 2014.
—Louisville has lost four games this season when having a lead or being tied in the fourth quarter. No FBS team has lost more.
—Louisville is 156-171-52 all-time during the month of November, with Scott Satterfield posting a 3-5 mark in his first three seasons during the calendar’s 11th month.
—The Cards are 96-79-2 all-time in November home games.
—Louisville is 0-7 under Scott Satterfield when being held to 21 points or fewer.
—Louisville is 0-13 under Satterfield when trailing at the end of the 3rd quarter.
—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 270 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 11th-longest nationally.
—Louisville is 193-14 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 6-120 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
—“I think we’ll be able to run the ball for the most part. They are a really box-heavy team. They’re going to try to stop the run just like BC did. But I like our plan and I think we’ll be able to do some good stuff against them.” —Syracuse QB Garrett Shrader
—“Syracuse has a good football team. They’ve been in a lot of close games. We know we’ll get their best shot when they come in here, but we’re looking forward to it.” —Scott Satterfield
—“(Malik Cunningham)’s explosive, I feel like, in a straight line. Once he gets going, he’s gone. So we can’t let him get comfortable and do that.” —Syracuse LB Marlowe Wax
—“We knew coming into this year that Louisville and Malik was going to be a tough task. The biggest part of it is just keeping him in the pocket and trying to limit the big plays, and try to stop them.” —Syracuse DE Kingsley Jonathan
—“You know how to approach these types of quarterbacks. They’re not normal quarterbacks. They’re not going to let you run up and hit them. They’re going to see you coming. You’ve just got to know what they’re going to do. They’re going to put a move on you. It’s all about how you react and the position you put yourself in.” —Syracuse LB Mikel Jones
—“The feeling around the locker room and what the coaches are saying, it was that everybody knew we just had to finish. We’ve known we’ve had to do that all season and we just haven’t been able to get over that hump. We know we’re so close, but what we were talking about Sunday was that each individual player and coach and everybody on staff just needs to find that extra little thing that can get us over the hump and make us better where we can finish and get those wins like we know we can.” —Bryan Hudson
—“It’s motivation for our guys to continue to work. They know that they’re so close. ... It’s the same things that they’ve done the first three quarters of these games, we just have to carry it on to the last one.” —Scott Satterfield
—“Life’s short. You’ve got to celebrate everything, the little wins. Last year taught us that. Each win matters. So I feel like we’ll all want to celebrate that sixth win.” —Syracuse LB Mikel Jones
—“Teams are really loading up the box to try to stop the run against us, but I think we’ve really embraced our running capabilities. We don’t care how many guys you put in the box, we’re still going to try to pound the rock.” —Syracuse OL Airon Servais
—“This is a game we want. It’s definitely a game we want. I haven’t won against them since I’ve been here either. A lot of the old heads, older guys, younger guys, this is their first time playing them, but they know what it is.” —Syracuse LB Mikel Jones
Card Chronicle Prediction: Louisville 33, Syracuse 30