LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (0-0) at SYRACUSE ORANGE (0-0)
Game Time: 8 p.m.
Location: JMA Wireless Dome: Syracuse, N.Y.
Television: ACC Network
Announcers: Drew Carter (play-by-play), Tim Hasselbeck (analyst), and Kelsey Riggs (sidelines)
Favorite: Louisville by 5.5
All-Time Series: Louisville leads, 13-7
Louisville Depth Chart:
Excitement Level: 9.0
Realllllllyyyyyy gonna need you to beat Syracuse, Scott. If you do, this level is only going to go up.
Game Attire: Grey Louisville Football t-shirt
Pretty sure this is the only offseason acquisition I’ve made so let’s give it a shot.
Pregame Meal: Chicken wings
Bold Prediction: Tiyon Evans rushes for 170+ yards
Let’s get super bold right from the jump.
Rance Conner Playing Alert Level: Pink Sherbert (low)
Justin Marshall is gone so we need another No. 18 to fill-in here. This section is subject to change moving forward, but for now, we’re focusing in on our new guy Rance.
Predicted Star of the Game: Tiyon Evans
There will be plenty of opportunities for Malik Cunningham moving forward, but the season-opener belongs to the running game.
The Louisville defense has dominated Syracuse for the last two seasons. The Cards have held the Orange to a total of 321 total yards in the two games and Syracuse has only been able to average 3.14 yards per play. Dino Babers has struggled to field a consistently potent offense but his hires this offseason could change that. Syracuse brought in Robert Anae and Jason Beck from Virginia after they helped to field one of the best offenses in the country.
Last year, one of the most inconsistent aspects of the Cuse offense was their quarterback play. Garrett Schrader took over as the starter early in the season and he helped Cuse stay competitive in some big games with his legs. However, his play fell off over the last quarter of the season and his ability to run the ball wasn’t much of a factor. Shrader has some significant room to improve as a passer; if he hasn’t done so, it will be hard for the offense to reach its potential.
The Orange added some depth at the quarterback spot through the transfer portal as well as high school recruiting. Justin Lamson picked the Orange over Louisville last year and he was expected to push for the starting job as a redshirt freshman. Unfortunately, Lamson went down with an injury this spring and won’t likely play anytime soon. Carlos Del Rio-Wilson is a transfer from Florida who will likely be the backup this season. The former four-star recruit hasn’t played in a game yet.
The star of the show on the Cuse offense is Sean Tucker. Get used to hearing his name because we’ll hear it all week long and then during the broadcast. Tucker is one of the best running backs in the country and he can take over a game with his ability to break long runs. Tucker mixes a great blend of speed and power as he is very hard to bring down in the open field. He is built like a tank but he just runs away from people once he sees daylight.
Tucker entered last year’s game on a seven-game streak of rushing for at least 100 yards but the Cards defense was able to contain him for the most part. He finished the game with 95 yards and no touchdowns while UofL completely shut down the passing game. I would be surprised if UofL can contain tucker again this year but the improvements on the defense should help them repeat their success.
While Syracuse has talent returning and coaches who should improve the offense, they’ll have to do so with a group of receivers that leaves a lot to be desired. Taj Harris hit the transfer portal and the Orange don’t really have anyone to replace their top threat in the passing game. Courtney Jackson and Damien Alford return as the top pass catchers with experience. Cuse also likely has high hopes for former FSU receiver, D’Marcus Adams. Adams brings the type of speed that this offense needs with such a strong rushing attack. If he can provide some big play ability, he could cause some problems.
Two years ago, Syracuse had one of the worst offensive lines that I had ever seen. Tommy Devito never reached his potential because he took so many hits and the running backs had very little success sustaining a running game. Things have gotten much better for the group and they now have Matthew Bergeron as a star at left tackle. The center position has also been solidified with Carlos Vetterollo as a returning starter.
This group opened a lot of big running lanes for Sean Tucker last season but they also allowed too many sacks. If they continue their trend of improvement from a few years ago, they could be a big factor in the offense taking that next step. However, Louisville has 8 sacks over the last two years and this year’s defense should be better at getting after the quarterback.
Tony White is in his third season as the Syracuse defensive coordinator and he has made a major impact during his time at the helm. The Orange has improved across the board each season and his players are starting to get recognition for their production. White’s 3-3-5 scheme is tough to prepare for and he now has the talent needed to deploy it at its best. With the youth of the defense last season, White has to be excited about what his defense can be with more experience.
The defensive line is the one position group that will have a facelift this season. The starting group has moved on and the depth that they utilized last year will have to step up. This scheme needs the defensive linemen to be more disruptive than productive but it has to be noted that they return nearly no production from the defensive line last year. Steve Linton is the best bet when it comes to rushing the passer. Linton has good length and should be comfortable in the system as a third-year player. Terry Lockett is the key player in the middle. At 270 pounds, he could get pushed around by UofL’s size.
Linebacker is where the Orange are at their best. Mikel Jones is a star at middle linebacker and he does it all for the defense. Jones led the team in tackles, tackles for loss, and finished the year with four sacks. Jones took advantage of a defensive line that cleared out space for him but he is also very athletic and fast. He hasn’t played very against Louisville but after his bulletin board material from ACC media days, I’m sure he will want to show out.
Stefon Thompson and Marlowe Maxe flank Jones and both were very productive when they were on the field last season. Thompson has great speed for a player his size and he has a knack for making plays around the line of scrimmage. Thompson finished the season with 6 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. He will likely see a lot of Marshon Ford on Saturday and that will be a key matchup in the run game.
Syracuse has two of the best cornerbacks that Louisville will see this year. Garrett Williams finished last season with 10 PBUs while teams chose to test other players in the secondary. Those tests failed most of the time as Duce Chestnut stepped in as a true freshman with 8 PBUs and 3 interceptions. Louisville was able to throw the ball all over the field last season but I think that the year of experience should show up most for Syracuse at the corner position. Chestnut fell off later in the season as most freshmen do but he is a real talent that should develop well for the Orange. We will learn a lot about UofL’s new receivers.
Safety has been upgraded for the Orange with the addition of Alijah Clark from Rutgers. The former four-star recruit pulled down an interception last season and has plenty of snaps under his belt as a second-year player. Clark joins new starters Ha’Had Carter and Justin Barron as the starting safeties. Rob Hanna and Jason Simmons have plenty of experience as backups with starting experience but neither has shown the ability to be a playmaker to this point. This is where UofL could exploit the defense in the passing game. UofL running backs averaged 5.76 yards per carry in last year’s game. If they can do that again, these safeties will have to cover receivers on deep routes. That is not where they’re at their best.
—Louisville is 56-41-6 all-time in season openers, but have dropped three of their last four.
—Syracuse is 85-43-4 all-time in season-openers, and has won eight of its last nine.
—This will be the first time Syracuse has opened conference play with a home game since joining the ACC in 2013.
—This will be the first time Syracuse has opened a season with a home game since 2017.
—This will be Louisville’s first true road season-opener since winning at Kentucky, 31-24, in 2005.
—Louisville has won seven of its last eight games against Syracuse, which have all come as members of the ACC. The Cardinals have won those seven games by a combined score of 314-98, including 71-3 over the past two seasons.
—Louisville is 5-4 all-time in road games against Syracuse.
—Because of the odd scheduling in recent years caused by the COVID pandemic, this will be Louisville’s first trip to Syracuse since 2018. The Cards hosted the Orange for three straight seasons from 2019-2021.
—This will be Louisville’s earliest conference opener since opening the 2014 season on Sept. 1 at home against Miami.
—Louisville is 4-4 all-time in ACC openers. The Cards had lost three straight ACC openers before knocking off Florida State on Sept. 25 last season.
—Since the Dome opened in 1980, Syracuse is 23-19 in home starters.
—Louisville is 13-8 all-time in domed stadiums.
—This will be just the fourth time in program history that Louisville has opened a season with a conference game. The Cardinals are 1-2 in such contests.
—Scott Satterfield is 3-0 all-time in games against Syracuse.
—The Cardinals held Syracuse without a touchdown in last year’s meeting, the only game the Orange failed to score a touchdown in 2021.
—Louisville is 5-1 in games against Syracuse head coach Dino Babers.
—Louisville is a 5.5-point favorite in this game according to DraftKings Sportsbook. The Cardinals were 5-3 straight up as favorites last season.
—Syracuse led the ACC and was 16th in the nation in rushing offense last season, averaging 213.5 yards per game.
—Orange RB Sean Tucker set the school record for rushing yards in a single season in 2021, finishing with 1,496 yards. He ranked sixth in the nation in rushing yards, fourth in rushing yards per game (124.7) and third in yards from scrimmage (1,751).
—Under Scott Satterfield, Louisville is 14-2 when winning the turnover battle, and just 2-15 when losing it.
—Louisville has averaged at least 200 rushing yards in each of Scott Satterfield’s first three seasons. The Cardinals are one of two teams (Ole Miss) from a Power Five Conference to average 200 rushing yards per game each of the last three seasons (2019, 2020, 2021).
—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.
—During the offseason, Syracuse made a change at offensive coordinator, bringing in Robert Anae from Virginia.
—Louisville QB Malik Cunningham has accounted for at least one touchdown in 30-straight games. The last time Cunningham failed to be responsible for at least one score in a game came in a 45-10 loss to Clemson during the 2019 season.
—Louisville is 6-0 under Scott Satterfield when scoring 40-49 points, and 3-0 when scoring 50 or more.
—In eight seasons as a head coach, Scott Satterfield’s teams are 57-7 when scoring 30 or more points. Louisville is 16-4 in such games under Satterfield.
—Louisville is 0-8 under Scott Satterfield when being held to 21 points or fewer.
—Louisville is 0-15 under Satterfield when trailing at the end of the 3rd quarter.
—Syracuse QB Garrett 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 to Syracuse after the season.
—Since Dino Babers took over the program in 2016, Syracuse has won more than two conference games just once, and more than five games overall also just once.
—Last season, the Syracuse defense recorded 37 sacks, which tied for the fourth-highest total in program history.
—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 274 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 195-14 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 6-121 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
—“We don’t think it’s going to be a tough challenge. We’re excited to play those guys the first week.” —Syracuse LB Mikel Jones
—“It’d be huge, going on the road and get an ACC conference win. It’d be big time. That’s what we’re shooting for. You have to start off on a good note. I am sure Syracuse is saying the same thing. It’s a conference game, you don’t want to get in a hole the very first week.” —Scott Satterfield
—“To go down 0-1 in conference, that’s a heavier weight than just losing.” —Syracuse head coach Dino Babers
—“We know Tuck is a great back. He’s a cutback runner, get downhill, can get moving, low center of gravity. ... So we gameplan to stop them early, stop them often and kind of make them win in the air.” —MoMo Sanogo
—“The really cool thing about football is that the best player on the field, you actually get to touch him. But Malik’s one of those guys you don’t get to touch anyway because he’s so elusive. I really like him. He’s extremely confident but humble, and he’s an electrifying player.” —Syracuse head coach Dino Babers
—“They’ve got a really good defense. Some really experienced guys, primarily their linebackers. Just watching from last season and the tape that we have on them, that’s one thing that really stands out is just their experience at the linebacker position. They’ve got some really athletic guys, just talking D-line and linebackers.” —Bryan Hudson
—“It should be a better situation for us. We’ve gone down there late and we just don’t have the depth that a lot of other teams have. But this will be the very first time that both teams have been playing each other as healthy as can be. Obviously, they’re going to have injuries coming out of camp. We’re going to have injuries coming out of camp. But the entire football team? This will be the healthiest we’ve ever played them.” —Syracuse head coach Dino Babers
—”We know we have to be in a great spot when we start this first game against Syracuse. Coach (Dino) Babers does a great job. He hired a new offensive coordinator this year from Virginia (Robert Anae). We saw what Virginia did to us last year offensively, and anytime you go into a first game and they’ve got some new coaches, you really don’t know what they’re going to do. We know they’re going to turn a hand the ball to that running back (Sean Tucker), one of the top running backs in the country.” —Scott Satterfield
Card Chronicle Prediction: Louisville 37, Syracuse 24