After a surprising blowout win over Duke last week, the Syracuse Orange football team seemingly has a new lease on life. That’s encouraging in some ways for SU fans, but terrifying in others since we still basically have to win out to make a bowl game now. Next up on the list of foes standing in the way of that goal? The Louisville Cardinals.
Since we’re not Louisville fans (thankfully), we went ahead and asked one about what to expect in this game. Card Chronicle’s CardinalStrong (who you can follow on Twitter) joins us to talk all about UofL. You can check out those responses below. We also provide some notes on Syracuse over there as well.
The Scott Satterfield era’s gotten off to a roaring start. What’s allowed him to improve Louisville so quickly this season?
The culture change and family environment that Satterfield and his staff preached on this past offseason was refreshing to see and a great way to create a nice morale boost around the program. The big concern for many though was if he had the horses needed to compete at this level. Last season the overall effort was concerning but the talent level was drawn into question as well. Satterfield took both those areas of concerns and squashed them in Game 1 against Notre Dame. The effort was there, and they competed with a Top 10 team at the time for 3+ quarters. The only worry was sustainability, and ten games into the season I believe the sample size is substantial enough to say effort and talent are at a level to compete with anyone on the schedule.
Moving a few guys around on defense and promoting a few walk-ons to key positions showed the team this really was a fresh start, and they have taken those opportunities to heart. The new offense was a good fit for some guys I thought were underutilized last year and the defense, while struggling has never completely folded up as we saw numerous times in 2018. It’s still in the building phase, but the foundation went down much quicker than expected.
Who’s the second best team in the ACC this year? There is no wrong answer.
(Sorry John, you set me up for that) Although there may be some recency bias in here I think Miami, as of today, could compete with anyone in the ACC not named Clemson. A rough start took them off many folks radar but getting their QB healthy again and Diaz settling into the head ball coach role has resulted in a dangerous team. I saw the stat online earlier this week that they have actually beaten 6 teams with a winning record this year, one of just a handful of schools to do so in the country.
Louisville’s run the ball pretty well in wins, but not so much in losses. What have opponents that have stopped the Cards’ ground game done differently?
Some of it is scheme related but a lot of it is just those teams having “dudes” down in the trenches that can make plays. Louisville has four losses this year. Those four teams are Notre Dame, Clemson, Florida State, and Miami. Last time I checked all four of those schools were pretty solid at getting athletes on campus who can make plays. A DE that can get consistent penetration will disrupt the offense for sure, but a couple guys that can get in the backfield creates a problem in both the run game and passing game. While the O-line play has improved, the Cards have still given up 30 sacks and 100 TFL this year. “That’s not gonna be good for business.”
The Cardinals have looked pretty rough on the defensive side of the ball. Anything that’s specifically problematic? Or just a top-to-bottom issue that manifests itself in various ways?
A little of this, a little of that, a couple of these, a few of those, and next thing you know you’ve got a fruit salad of misery on that side of the ball. In my opinion no one thing sticks out as to “fix this and we’re golden” but that falls in line with a defense that’s ranked 100+ in scoring/passing/total defense. It ain’t that simple. Depth is certainly a concern and some of the play calling drives me up a wall (typical of most idiot armchair quarterbacks such as myself), but we’ve seen flashes of everything coming together and the Infinity Stones fitting into their respective spots. The problem is that it just doesn’t happen all that often. Here’s the good news for you, John. One of the Orange on Saturday is about to look like a Heisman contender… at least for one week.
What are you hoping Bobby Petrino is doing at this very moment?
Funny story, I actually ran into him at a Target down the street from my house earlier this year. I refrained from speaking to him as I was nervous about where the conversation may go but according to some former players he is apparently still in Louisville, at least part time.
Right now, I’m hoping he’s at home, watching this team plays their heads off all season and realizing that he kind of just gave up on them last year. That reflection leads him down a path of writing apology letters to each player, faculty member, and fan, and then ultimately telling the University “thanks, but no thanks” on that $14 million check they owe him. Seems realistic, right?
What would you say is this Louisville team’s biggest weakness? And has it gotten better or worse as the season’s progressed?
Their biggest weakness is that they work too hard and they care too much. For real though, it’s the defense. I think it has actually regressed some, maybe due to wear and tear or maybe some more challenging opponents the last 3-4 weeks. Coach Brown knows he has to improve on that side of the football but nine out of ten times this squad steps on the field the offense knows they are going to have to go full throttle all 60 minutes as the reliance on getting a defensive stop is just not there yet. As the defense improves year over year to an average team and then hopefully back to Top 25 caliber team they have a legit shot at competing for ACC Championships.
Is there any Orange position group or individual player that has you particularly concerned?
I think the DeVito-Jackson combo freaks me out a little as I think any level of consistency on that side of the ball is a concern against a defense that is reeling a bit. The secondary can make some plays when necessary but can’t let DeVito get comfortable back there.
Name one unsung player that Syracuse fans should get a bit more familiar with.
This is always tricky because frankly, I’m not sure who Syracuse fans are “singing about” if you catch my drift. If you don’t know about Tutu Atwell (WR) he is a guy that needs to be watched at all times. Elite speed, and lots of shiftiness. If you don’t know Javian Hawkins (RB) keep an eye on that guy as he already has 1,000+ yards under his belt this year on the ground. If you know both of them then watch Dez Fitzpatrick (WR). If Dino stacks the box to stop the run the big wideout will likely get plenty of targets downfield.
Prediction time: Who wins this one and how?
Although the defense is a growing concern I think the Cards are going to prove that they can remain focused, even though the short term goal (bowl eligibility) has been accomplished already. There is the threat of sandwiching this one between the emotional victory last week (6 wins) and the rivalry game next week (Kentucky), but I believe Senior Day and the last opportunity to show out for the hometown fans pushes these guys to close the door in the second half. I think the game stays close through three and the Cards get a late TD to create a little separation. I’ll say Cards 38-28 and Ryan Cahlifoux, the backup kicker, connects on his first field goal this week… to go along with his touchdown pass from last week.