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Syracuse football 2019 opponent preview: Louisville Cardinals

At the very least, it’s pretty hard to be worse than the Cards were last year.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Alabama Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Last time around, we previewed Duke and how the Blue Devils are going to fare without first round pick Daniel Jones under center. David Cutcliffe’s offense may be taking a step back this season, but the defense could be one of the best returning groups in the ACC.

We’ve been running through these opponent previews for months now, and we’re now nearing the home stretch. the Syracuse Orange face plenty of challenges on this year’s schedule if they want to repeat 2018’s 10-win campaign, but some of those foes are more difficult than others. Today, we take a look at SU’s 13 opponent:

Louisville Cardinals

School: University of Louisville

Mascot: Cardinals

#BRAND Slogan(s): #LIC4, #OneTeamOneHeartbeat

Alternate #BRAND Slogan Suggestions: “Go Big Papa” OR “Bobby Petrino’s OTHER Son”

Recommended Blog: Card Chronicle

Conference: ACC

Coach: Scott Satterfield, 1st year. I was honestly surprised when Satterfield left his alma mater, Appalachian State, for the Cardinals gig this offseason. He played quarterback for the Mountaineers from 1991-95, and joined the staff in 1998 as a wide receivers coach. Satterfield coached running backs and quarterbacks at App State through 2008, before spending three years at Toledo and FIU, then heading back to Boone, N.C. to take over as offensive coordinator. A year later, he was head coach, and stayed in that role until he said yes to Louisville. In six years with the Mountaineers, he was 51-24 and won the last three Sun Belt titles.

2018 Record: (2-10) (0-8)

NCAA Football: Louisville at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Recapping Last Season:

Going into 2018, things looked like they could get iffy for Louisville. Lamar Jackson left for the NFL, Bobby Petrino was seemingly wearing out part of his welcome and incoming talent didn’t necessarily balance out what departed beyond Jackson. All of that considered, you still didn’t see the 2-10 cratering coming. The Cards got understandably stomped by Alabama, coasted past Indiana State and then barely got by WKU. Everything largely fell apart from there with Louisville giving up at least 52 points in six of the final seven games.

Despite having offensive “guru” Petrino at the helm, the Cardinals averaged just 19.8 points per game last year — one of the worst figures in the country. The run game was one of the 30 worst attacks in the FBS according to per-game yardage, and the pass didn’t fare much better at 89th (211 yards per game). Neither Javon Pass nor Malik Cunningham ever really got things rolling under center, and Cunningham was the only player on the team to show any sort of rushing ability. He led the team with 497 yards on 79 attempts.

The story was worse on defense, as you may have guessed. Louisville allowed over 44 points per game and 483.5 total yards per game — with 277 of that coming through the air. They managed to force just 13 turnovers, and struggled trush the passer at all (just 11 sacks on the year). Louisville was one of just four teams to allow higher than 50% conversions on third down. They were worst in the nation there, at 51.85%.

2019 Season Outlook:

Welp, it can’t be as bad as 2018. Satterfield will have his work cut out for him in year one, however, replacing a ton of starters (especially on offense) and installing new systems. Louisville starts with a tough game against Notre Dame, and faces a brutal slate of road games — FSU, Wake Forest, Miami, NC State, Kentucky — that may not result in a single win. At home, they’ll get Clemson, plus potential top-25 teams Syracuse and Virginia, plus the aforementioned matchup with the Fighting Irish. It’s going to take a major effort to sniff a bowl bid.

A lot will probably ride on the offensive line, and if they’re able to protect Jawon Pass despite losing three players from last year’s not-that-great group. If the junior can get some time to throw, he has three of his top four targets coming back, with Dez Fitzpatrick, Chatarius Atwell and Seth Dawkins all returning. There’s not much help at running back, but then again, there wasn’t really last year either. Notably, Satterfield’s Appalachian State team was 14th in the country in rushing yards per game last year.

Defensively, a lot of last year’s starters return. That could be a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective when looking at the 2018 results. But second-leading tackler C.J. Avery returns at linebacker, and last year’s very young defensive line brings back plenty too. Louisville’s secondary will replace half of last year’s starters, though they’ll still be a pretty veteran both corner and safety, with most players on the depth chart being juniors or seniors.

Syracuse Game Date: Saturday, November 23

Location: (No Longer Papa John’s) Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, Ky.

Odds of Orange Victory: 70 percent

Very Early Outlook vs. Syracuse:

SU hasn’t fared too well at Louisville lately (haven’t won there since the 2007 upset), though these are both obviously very different teams than any that have faced off since. The Cardinals getting the Orange this late in the year should benefit them as they’ll have time to work out a lot of the transition to Satterfield’s schemes. Still, as long as Syracuse is healthy, a late date with Louisville’s defense could be a welcome bounce-back effort following a tougher game against Duke the Saturday before. It won’t be last year’s blowout, but SU is still pretty capable of taking home a double-digit win here with a balanced offensive attack.