Three months ago, Syracuse vs. Louisville looked like yet another Battle For The Basement. Yet here we stand on November 1st, preparing for a showdown between two teams with a combined record of 10-6. One of the teams is playing to clinch a bowl berth while the other is trying to get above .500. Oh and neither of them are the worst team in the conference, that would be the two-time defending conference champions Cincinnati.
The Orange finished 3-1 in both of the previous months. Looking ahead to this one, 3-1 seems extremely doable. Louisville (4-4), Rutgers (4-4), UConn (4-4) and Boston College (3-5) are all beatable, though we would be getting way ahead of ourselves to make any kind of guarantees. Remember, this is the wacky Big East where underdogs win every week. All of a sudden, we're not the underdog anymore.
And what of Louisville? The Orange and Cardinals have formed a kind of awkward rivalry based in misery. It started when the Orange upset the nationally-ranked Cardinals in 2007, setting off their tumble down into the depths of the conference. It continued the following season when Steve Kragthorpe gained the dubious honor of being out-coached by Greg Robinson for a second time. Then, when the Orange were finally expected to win in 2009, they didn't. A sloppy slogfest that sadly defined how far these two basement-dwellers had fallen ended up going Louisville's way.
Gone are Greg Robinson and Steve Kragthorpe. Here now are Doug Marrone and Charlie Strong, two extremely capable coaches who have their programs heading in the right direction. Who knows...Syracuse vs. Louiville might end up being the conference's marquee match-up within a couple years. For now, fans are just happy it's no longer a way to decide who finishes eighth.
The Cardinals are coming off a 20-3 loss to the Pitt Panthers. As Syracuse fans will tell you, there's no shame in that and a loss to Pitt does not define who you are as a team. The Cardinals have otherwise put on a respectable show all season. Their other losses have all been close (Kentucky by 7, Oregon State by 7, Cincy by 8). Their two most recent wins have been nightmares for the opposition (56-0 over Memphis and 26-0 over UConn).
The most pressing issue is, of course, the status of Louisville RB Bilal Powell. The Cards' leading rusher suffered a knee injury midway through the third quarter of the Pitt loss and his status is up in the air. Powell is currently the No. 5 rusher in the nation with 1,067 yards (DC3 has 746 for reference) and the No. 3 RB overall. He also has 9 TDs on the year.
Coach Strong has said Powell has swelling on his knee and will be "evaluated day to day." The Orange got very lucky with opposing player injuries this week, we might be pushing it with the Football Gods if we go for two in a row.
The other pressing issue for the Cards is their QB, Adam "Abe" Froman. Froman's erratic play inspired some nasty name-calling on the Louisville boards this weekend. If you think Syracuse fans have concerns about Ryan Nassib, that's nothing compared to Louisville fans and Froman. Oddly enough, Froman currently has a better QB Rating than Nassib (136.5 to 127.8). The only thing Nassib has more of, is TDs. But of course, that's just statistics.