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Countdown Q&A, Week 1: Syracuse

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 30 Syracuse at NC State Photo by William Howard/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For those who are looking for a bit more shenanigan's in your life, you’ve come to the right place. This weekly series is going to happen once again, and yours truly (CardinalStrong) will try to interject some humor, some puns, some knowledge, and genuinely make our foes question the sanity of guy who is coming off a 100 day countdown high, I’m bound to crash eventually.

This week we kick it off with a longtime SB Nation pal ‘Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician’, the Syracuse fansite which does a great job keeping you up to date with all the juice on the Orange, no pulp. I reached out to them and they surprisingly responded. Big mistake.

For the casual fan, the majority of chatter around the Syracuse football program in 2022 focuses on the talented Sophomore running back who went for over 1,400 yards last year and was Top 5 nationally in terms of yards/g. What makes Sean Tucker so special and why is he going to be a challenge for the guys up front in the red and black?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 15 Clemson at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Sean Tucker is a patient runner who brings strength and speed to the position. Last year he excelled at reading the open space and making one cut and hitting a top speed quickly. He joined the Syracuse track team last winter and according to Dino Babers, he’s even faster this year. What makes him so tough is that teams seem to feel like he’s bottled up, but he has the ability to take the ball to the house from any spot on the field.

While one may assume the offense will live and die around the performance of Tucker week in and week out, the new OC is likely going to try and mix it up. What other notable names should we be watching for here in a few days on the offensive side of the ball?

Garrett Shrader returns at quarterback and says he’s more comfortable in the pro-style offense brought by new OC Robert Anae. He struggled as a passer last year but he’s got tall targets on the outside in Oronde Gadsen II and Damien Alford while slot receiver Courtney Jackson emerged at the end of last season as Syracuse’s top receiving threat.

Since joining the ACC the Orange have only had two winning seasons, but one of those seasons (2018) the Orange exploded to a 10-3 record and a bowl win over everyone’s least favorite team, West Virginia. This was my “show the receipts” season for the abuse I kept getting saying Dino Babers was a good hire. And then…nothing. What made the stars align in 2018 (a season we have erased from memory around here) and why have they not repeated that success any other year?

The 2018 season was turned around when Syracuse rallied late to force overtime and beat UNC. It’s a game where Babers benched starter Eric Dungey and that seemed to light a fire under the senior. That Syracuse team did benefit from some turnover luck and excellent kicking from Andre Szmyt to get to 10 wins. Honestly since 2018, the quarterback play has been among the worst in the P5 and that’s been a major factor in Syracuse’s struggles.

Louisville is poised to have a pretty solid offense in 2022, not only with the athleticism of Malik Cunningham returning but also a full stable of running backs and a solid mix of returning talent and transfers at wideout. What will the Syracuse defense look like this year, and what phase of the Cards offensive attack makes you the most nervous in Week 1?

Florida State v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It’s definitely Cunningham because Syracuse hasn’t had an answer from him before and this year will be doing it with a young defensive line. The Orange replace all three starters up front and while Syracuse fans are excited about the talent in the linebacker group and secondary, stopping the run is going to be critical. If Syracuse is going to be successful they will have to find a way to keep Cunningham in the pocket and force him to go on long scoring drives. If he’s able to get outside the pocket it’ll open up some big plays for the Cardinals.

You remember that one time Lamar jumped over that kid from Syracuse? That was fun right? Or what about that time Louisville came back from being down like 20 to Syracuse in the Big East title game at Madison Square Garden and ended up blowing them out. That was cool, right? While I joke, there are some good memories on our side against the Orange and I know you have your own que to draw from as well. How would you rank this “rivalry” between the two schools, which carries over from a few conferences, on your juice meter? Do you get hyped for this game, or is it just another ACC foe?

This game should mean more to Syracuse fans but the fact it’s been pretty one-sided hasn’t helped. I think the last time the Orange fans got really hyped was the 2012 game when Charlie Strong made up some fake quote from Ryan Nassib to try and fire up his team before they came to the Dome. Maybe Dino Babers will coach this game in a white suit (it is prior to Labor Day) to get some good ol-fashioned dislike brewing again.

If you will, bare with me as I’ve come up with a completely unique and groundbreaking way to close out this back and forth. Wait for it…..score prediction. I know, eye opening stuff, amiright? So, how do you see Week 1 playing out? Which team gets it started with the energy of the ‘Black Eyed Peas’ and which is walking away with a loss and likely googling this early 2000’s music reference?

Well in 2008 Syracuse did beat Louisville for their only Big East win so I’m going to take the Orange to win a nail-biter 40-38. There will be a lot of offense as both teams take advantage of some opening week defensive miscues. Cunningham will go boom boom pow all over the JMA Wireless Dome as he racks up over 400 all-purpose yards but a special teams turnover sets Syracuse up for a final minute field goal.


Big thank you to the guys over at ‘Nunes Magician’ for their feedback and responses. Feel free to check them out this year for all things Orange. One of those things to check out is my ridiculous answers to their questions for me, right here . While I don't know how this game will play out I sure hope my guy is not an expert picker like Boeheim and is severely wrong about the 40-38 projection, because a full offseason of good will built up by Satterfield and this staff could potentially be flushed away just a bit over four hours into the new season. No pressure. Go Cards.