Teams: No. 13 Syracuse Orange (7-2, 4-2) vs. Louisville Cardinals (2-7, 0-6)
Day & Time: Friday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.
Location: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY
Line: Syracuse, a top-13 team, opened as a 21.5-point favorite
Radio: Cuse.com, TK 99/105, WAER 88.3, SiriusXM: 965 (home), 989 (away)
Louisville blog: Card Chronicle
Rivalry: 10-6, Louisville
Current Streak: 4, Cardinals
First Meeting: Back in 1985, a bad Louisville team came to town and got killed, 48-0 by the Orangemen. In his first career start, Don McPherson did whatever he wanted, accounting for three touchdowns and leading SU to a 38-0 advantage at halftime. It was an early setback for then-Cards coach Howard Schnellenberger, who’d eventually turn Louisville into something, just not that year.
Last Meeting: Last November, Louisville ran the Orange out of
Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, 56-10. How did it happen? That’s a question with a two-word answer: Lamar Jackson. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner racked up 381 total yards and four touchdowns in the beat-down of the Orange. During the assault, Jackson became Louisville’s all-time leader in yardage, a milestone due in part to his playing the Orange. Through his career, Jackson accounted for 991 total yards in just two games against Syracuse.
Meanwhile, the Orange, after beating No. 2 Clemson at the Dome that season, were in the midst of a tailspin. Playing without the injured Eric Dungey, Syracuse would go on to lose its last five games of 2017.
Head Coaches: SU: Dino Babers (3rd year, 15-18); Louisville: Bobby Petrino (9th year, 77-34)
Coach Bio: Noted dick Bobby Petrino took the long road from the state of Montana, up to Idaho, Arizona State, Nevada, Utah State and then finally east of the Mississippi as an offensive coordinator at Louisville in 1998. A three-year respite with the Jaguars brought him back to college at Auburn, before taking over Louisville in 2003. He bailed for the Falcons, then a year later, to Arkansas before unceremoniously departing in 2011. A mercenary gig with Western Kentucky got him back on (former) AD Tom Jurich’s radar and Petrino was eventually hired back in 2014.
Last Year: Top-20 Louisville started the year by scoring 82 points in its first two games, victories over Purdue and on the road against North Carolina. Early on in ‘17, it looked like Petrino and the Cards were ready for another big year. Sure, the Cardinals’ defense was an issue, allowing an average of over 31 points in the first two games, but another good bowl was likely in play with Jackson and the offense. However, after taking out the Tar Heels, Louisville began ACC play 1-3, with a blow-out loss at Clemson and defeats at North Carolina State and to Boston College at home.
The wheels never officially came off, yet the preseason ranking also never proved to be merited. Louisville did manage to salvage a 4-4 conference record (8-5 overall) and also ended up in the (old as time) Taxslayer Bowl, a loss to Mississippi State.
Last Game: Louisville’s wheels weren’t just blown off this past Saturday at Clemson, they were lit on fire and tossed into the dumpster that 2018 has been for the Cards. Down 35-3 at the half in Death Valley, Louisville would go on to lose, 77-16. Remember, Syracuse, a program that was previously considered dead before being transported to a different hospital and being upgraded to alive, lost at Clemson, 27-23. Quite the difference in outcomes. Quite the difference in directions both programs are headed.
In that whooping Saturday, Petrino’s team gave up an average of 13.3 yards per rush, 11.6 yards per play vs. Louisville, and a total of 492 yards. Those 77 points? That’s the second most a Louisville team has given up in its 100-plus-year history of the program. The Tigers easily covered a 39-point spread, and jumped out to a quick 7-zip after a drive that lasted just one minute and 15 seconds. It was stunning to see the Cards look like doormats after being something of Clemon’s only ACC Atlantic division rival the past few years.
Former Louisville quarterback, Jeff Brohm, has risen the coaching ranks and is now having moderate success at Purdue. Brohm is basically the anti-Petrino, a non-dick who has done things the right way throughout his career. With each Boilermakers win, and Cards ugly defeat, the pressure grows for Petrino. Should Louisville finish 2-10, a very likely result, Petrino really could be done and Brohm would almost certainly be in.
“Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: Um. When is the last time a Syracuse team was expected to beat a conference foe by this many points in November? Sure, that’s a sign of progress made by Dino Babers. But it also points to the fact that Louisville is just garbage.
If I had to pick, senior wide receiver Jaylen Smith could be the one who gets behind the Syracuse secondary for a couple of big touchdowns. Every team SU plays is guaranteed to have one or two of those monster plays. Smith is averaging over 15- yards per catch and leads the Cards in catches (29) and in receiving yards (436).
If Syracuse Wins: It ups the winning streak to four, secures an undefeated Dome record (first time that’s happened since...answer coming in the “Fun Facts” section. That’s a tease, folks.), and puts the Orange at 8-2 overall. Further, a victory gives SU its most ACC wins (five) since becoming a member in 2013. And even more importantly, a “W” against the lowly Cards means Syracuse could be in line for a major showdown with top-five Notre Dame in the Bronx the following weekend. That’s a contest worthy of ESPN’s GameDay. Although this matchup with Louisville is an afterthought now, the implications and ramifications could be felt nationwide.
If Syracuse Loses: Give me a Michael Scott seeing Toby Flenderson back at the office “nooooooooo!” A defeat against Louisville would be a huge gut-punch. One that would likely knock the Orange out of the top-25 and all but guarantee a Pinstripe Bowl berth as the best possible December outcome. Further, a loss would ruin Senior Night and be one helluva ugly blemish on the 2018 home schedule.
In other words, Syracuse, which is a top-13 team, can simply not afford to lose this game. It has to defend home turf, beat a lesser team and send the seniors, like Dungey, off in style.
Fun Fact No. 1: Should the Orange vanquish the Petrino’s, it would give SU its most wins in the regular season since 2012. Further, it would mark the first time Syracuse has gone undefeated at the Dome since 2001.
Fun Fact No. 2: Louisville just lost to Clemson, 77-16, as we covered, but did you know its worst loss ever came in October of 1932 when Murray State crushed the Cards, 105-0. If Syracuse truly wants to send a message that its ready for a “big bowl game,” it might just need to hang 106 on the Dome scoreboard Friday night. You can laugh it off, but that scenario isn’t totally out of the question now, is it?