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What To Watch For: Syracuse Orange

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports


Louisville has held Syracuse to 3.14 yards per play on offense over the last two seasons combined. I have real doubts that they will be able to do the same this season. Syracuse hasn’t brought in more talent but they have revamped their offensive staff and scheme. Robert Anae joins the staff as the offensive coordinator after leading Virginia to a historic season.

This will not be the offense that the Cards have seen in recent years and I think that will lead to some success for Cuse. Anae is not only creative in his play designs and play calls but he has a lot of experience with doing more with less. Syracuse lost Taj Harris to the portal so they will likely spread the ball around a lot in the passing game. But, the big question is what does Anae’s scheme look like with a running back like Sean Tucker?

Tucker will be the key as Anae will likely spread the field to create running lanes for Tucker. That’s not really new for this offense but the quick passing game and pace that Anae has utilized in the past will be different for Syracuse. I won’t go as far as to say the Orange will make the Louisville defense look inferior but I don't expect the dominating performances we’ve seen the last two seasons.


Louisville averaged 5.76 yards per rush with their group of running backs last season. That was without Hassan Hall who had already hit the portal and without a strong performance from Trevion Cooley. Jalin Mitchell and Jawhar Jordan both had strong games where they found ample running room and took advantage. It was the lone 100-yard rushing performance from Mitchell last season.

With the Cards adding Tiyon Evans and touting a very deep running back room, can they either match what they put up last season or at least show some signs that the running backs will be able to meet the lofty expectations put on them?

I would be shocked if the backs don’t have a big day. Syracuse is replacing their entire defensive line and they are not only inexperienced up front but they are small. UofL should be able to open running lanes and this group of backs should have no problem showing just how good they are and how deep they are.


I’ve made it known that I’m not totally sold on the group of receivers Louisville has at their disposal. The main reason for that is that we just don’t know what they have because we have not seen these guys play yet. We got a small glimpse in the spring but even then Tyler Harrell was still with the team.

While I think UofL will force Syracuse to play man coverage and add a player to the box because of their run game, I’m not sure the receivers will be able to create big plays down the field against this defense. The reason for that is Garrett Williams and Duce Chestnut. Both corners are high-level players who have great cover skills. Williams’ second career interception was on a deep post to Tutu Atwell where he made a great play. These guys are very good players and they could make it hard to push the ball down the field.


Syracuse’s offensive line has improved so much over the last two seasons that it can go unnoticed that they were still one of the worst teams in the country when it comes to sacks allowed. Throw that in with the fact that they were near the bottom of the list when it comes to passes attempted and you notice a bad average for them. They didn’t throw the ball much last season but they were sacked a lot when they dropped back to pass.

UofL brings back Yasir Abdullah as one of the best pass rushers in the country and they have guys like Yaya Diaby and Ashton Gillotte at the defensive end spots. Throw in Jermayne Lole and Monty Montgomery and the Louisville pass rush should be improved this season.

This is another area where Louisville should be able to show some improvement. The defensive front may not come up with a lot of sacks as the Cuse offense will likely work to make things quick and easy in the passing game but the defense should have no problem getting pressure. The offense has made some changes, but third and longs are the same for everyone. This group should be able to show what they can do.


One thing that UofL needs to do consistently this year is make highlight type plays. We’ve seen Malik Cunningham run all over the place and hit big throws to guys like Tyler Harrell but they really need to see game-changing plays from different players if this team is going to reach its potential.

Going into this season, the big plays just haven’t been there with any consistency. The receivers haven’t made enough plays on their own. The running backs haven’t broken big runs. The defensive front isn’t getting enough sacks. Then you throw in the lack of turnovers being forced by the entire defense and it becomes pretty obvious why Louisville hasn’t been able to win close games. The issue is that they don’t do enough to keep the game from being close in the first place.

College football is all about big plays and swings. UofL needs to find consistency so that they can avoid this trend of having one side of the ball playing well while the other isn’t. Forcing a fumble on a quarterback as opposed to just getting a sack would help that. Picking off a pass and returning it for a big gain or a touchdown changes a game. But, more than anything else, finding offensive playmakers that can take the load off of Malik Cunningham’s shoulders would take this team to a different level. Other players need to step up and it starts this week.