The Syracuse Orange won last week! However, their week two opponent, the Louisville Cardinals, did too. In resounding fashion. Let’s talk about it.
Below, Card Chronicle’s Mike Rutherford (who you probably follow on Twitter already) stops by to tell us everything we need to know about Louisville, Lamar Jackson and more. I also answered some questions over there, so feel free to check those out and discuss.
These were asked before #Chainghazi, so please excuse the lack of questions about that topic.
What do Louisville fans make of Lamar Jackson's record performance from last week? Sign of things to come, or product of an inferior opponent?
Expectations have been through the roof for Lamar all summer after his performance in the Music City Bowl, but yeah, it's safe to say there's no other team on Louisville's schedule that's going to allow him to account for eight first half touchdowns.
I think the biggest thing Louisville fans were looking for from Lamar in week one was improvement as a passer. He has a monster arm and everyone knows about his running ability, but last year he essentially locked onto one receiver, and if he wasn't open Lamar would either chuck it deep or take off running. Because of this, Bobby Petrino didn't let Jackson run at all during the spring and spent every second of practice making him a better passer.
In the first quarter, Lamar torched Charlotte with his legs and a couple of OK passes, which was cool... but we already knew he could do that. In the second quarter, the offensive line settled down a little bit and he was able to go through his reads and make some really nice throws. That was very encouraging to see.
At this point, I think the general thought is that Lamar can be as good as he wants to be.
Obviously the hype train's running full steam for Louisville this year. Are you guys buying in? Or too soon to tell.
I think the overall consensus among Louisville fans is that this is the year that the Cards need to beat Florida State or Clemson (or both!) and seriously contend in the ACC. Then there's also what has become an even bigger Thursday night game at Houston in the second to last week of the regular season.
I can't speak for all Louisville fans, but my sense is that winning double-digit games this year would make everybody happy, and winning nine with a triumph over one of the big two in the ACC would be satisfactory too. Anything less, and it will be a chirpy offseason here.
Syracuse's new system obviously makes most previous game tape null and void. Will the limited knowledge of Dino Babers's offense (and defense) be a factor at all.
We actually talked to Petrino on my radio show back in June and he was discussing how the staff had already digested film of Louisville's first four opponents, which was difficult because there were so many new coordinators on those staffs. He mentioned that they'd watched a lot of film on Bowling Green, but knew there would be some new wrinkles in place given the new personnel the staff would be working with at Syracuse.
The team's been working against the hurry-up all week, which is probably good since they're going to face similar offenses at least three more times between now and the end of the regular season. I'm sure it's a little bit of a disadvantage feeling like you're not 100% sure exactly what your opponent's going to run on Friday, but I'm not sure it'll be a deciding factor in the game. This is something that college football teams have to deal with on a fairly consistent basis.
Did Cardinals fans think much of Eric Dungey's injury in those final minutes of last year's Syracuse game?
I'll be perfectly honest and say that I didn't remember the injury at all until you mentioned it, I just remembered that he did not look like much of a player in that game and looked totally different when I saw him running the show last Friday night. Syracuse was Louisville's only real blowout ACC win last season, and maybe that's why most Cardinal fans -- or at least me -- don't remember much else outside of our own team's performance.
The Orange's pass defense looked a little shaky at times vs. Colgate, and was terrible last year. Who, other than Lamar Jackson, stands to benefit most?
Louisville's receiving corps, which is probably as talented and definitely as deep as it has ever been. Sixteen different players caught passes against Charlotte, which is a school record. Jamari Staples was one of the best receivers in the country during the second half of last season, James Quick is a former five-star recruit who has the potential to be much better than he's been, and Reggie Bonnafon has looked like a natural since making the move full-time from quarterback.
U of L also has four tight ends who would start for most teams in the country. Cole Hikutini, who caught two touchdown passes last year against Syracuse, is probably the most dangerous of the group when it comes to being a pure receiver.
If there's one defender SU fans should definitely get familiar with, who would you say that is?
Preseason All-American Devonte Fields is the easy answer, but I'll go with Josh Harvey-Clemons. The Georgia transfer is technically a safety, but he plays what defensive coordinator Todd Grantham calls the "Star" position. Sometimes he'll line up deep as a traditional safety, and other times he'll creep up like a linebacker to help defend the run or rush the passer.
Harvey-Clemons will be the player most-tasked with Dungey's effectiveness. It's the same role he'll have to play against DeShaun Watson of Clemson and Greg Ward Jr. of Houston.
Are there any particular Syracuse players (on either side of the football) that concern you?
Besides Dungey, Amba Etta-Tawo was obviously fantastic in week one. I pulled up the Syracuse media guide to find out how to pronounce his name, and I'm still not sure I've got it right.
Louisville wins this game as expected, by _____.
Taking advantage of its superior athletes, not getting hammered by its own mistakes, and making Dungey uncomfortable early on.
Syracuse pulls off a pretty big upset in the Dome by _____.
Making Jackson throw the ball, taking advantage of his poor throws, hitting a handful of big plays down the middle of the field.
Prediction time: What happens in this one, and how?
Louisville always seems to play ugly at the Carrier Dome, even when they win. With the Florida State game looming, that makes me terrified. I think there are some anxious moments early, but ultimately Jackson settles in and the offense hits its stride in the second half.
I'll say Louisville 41, Syracuse 26