The Syracuse Orange are back at it again after a tough battle with the Bye Week Fightin’ Byes. It’s all but certain that the Orange suit up on Friday for their only primetime game of the season with a 7 p.m. ET kickoff against the Louisville Cardinals. Last time out for the Cardinals featured a loss to Virginia, as Scott Satterfield’s squad sits at 2-6 on the season.
If history is anything to go by, the winning team should put up a lot of points. The team that has come out on top has put up more than 50 points in the last four meetings between the programs. What are we watching for here at TNIAAM? Our staff weighs in:
Christian: What type of offense do we see JaCobian Morgan run?
I’ll get more into this subject on Friday, but I’m very interested to see how the offense runs with Morgan under center once again. In the first half of the Boston College game, the Orange offense returned to the fast tempo that we’re used to seeing from a Dino Babers offense, and third-down conversions is the only thing that stopped the ball from progressing further. But many people agree that the Orange offense looks much better when the tempo is pushed. Keep in mind this isn’t an issue that is exclusive to Morgan as each Syracuse QB has looked better when the offense is chugging along at full pace. But as a true freshman QB who only has a few weeks under his belt as the primary signal caller, Morgan looked comfortable operating fast. If he’s given that opportunity to push the tempo, Syracuse could find a lot more offensive success.
Kevin: Can the Orange contain Malik Cunningham?
We know this year’s Syracuse team has struggled against the run and against mobile quarterbacks in the past. On Friday night they face the ACC’s best dual-threat QB in Cunningham. Without Javian Hawkins last week, U of L’s QB carried 20 times for 197 yards against Virginia. If the Orange want to repeat the formula that led them to their win over Georgia Tech, they will need to keep Cunningham in the pocket and under pressure. The Cardinals QB has already thrown nine interceptions on the year and turnovers are going to be crucial for a Syracuse team struggling to score.
John: SU’s offense vs. Louisville’s linebackers
Syracuse’s offense has struggled against all manner of defenses this year, even before injuries really took hold. But against Louisville, that battle largely comes down to what they can do to slow down the Cards’ linebackers — who account for more than half of the team’s 52 tackles for loss and a third of the team’s paltry three interceptions. The Cardinals don’t get much of a pass rush from the line, and the secondary isn’t all that effective either. So Syracuse should have more time (and open space) than normal when throwing the ball... provided they can pick up blitzes from those linebackers.
We’ve seen teams terrorize this line with a variety of blitzes from linebackers and secondary before. However, by doing so, this Louisville team risks a lot. Morgan should be presented with opportunities to find holes in this defense — and the Orange run game may too — if play-calling is geared to take advantage.
Andy: Does Morgan Throw the Deep Ball?
Louisville’s pass coverage has been an insanely mixed bag, something Pro Football Focus backs up. While giving the Cardinals plus grades against Virginia and Florida State, they were below average in every other game, bottoming out against Miami and Virginia Tech. Syracuse will definitely attack through the air, but how many deep shots can Morgan connect on? He was just 2/7 on throws of 10+ yards versus Boston College, and that won’t cut it; Virginia Tech was able to go a perfect 5/5 deep against Louisville, and Virginia went 5/10. It seems like Louisville will give Morgan the windows, he will have to hit them and Taj Harris and others will have to find them.