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Syracuse vs. Louisville football preview: Q&A with Card Chronicle

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Ends up Syracuse isn’t the only team not having the season they’d hoped for.

NCAA Football: Music City Bowl-Mississippi State vs Louisville Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange football team is back in action this week, and to make it interesting, they’re playing on a Friday night this time around against the Louisville Cardinals. While few teams are having as rough of a fall as SU, the Cards would at least make a claim to falling further from expectations.

Since we’re not Louisville fans, we went ahead and asked one about what to expect in this game. Card Chronicle’s Cardinal Strong joins us to talk about U of L. You can check out those responses below. We also provide some notes on Syracuse over there, which we’ll link to once they’re live.

This has not been the season most Louisville fans imagined. What’s been the biggest factor in the Cardinals falling short in Scott Satterfield’s second year?

There are a few things you can point to but a couple big ones have really stuck out to me this year. First, the defense, while in some areas has shown improvement is really not an ACC caliber unit in year two under Bryan Brown. He absolutely has some depth issues and is really missing some athletes in key positions up front and in the secondary. And even when the A-Team is on the field they are no B.A. Baracas when it comes to “turnover” chains or belts or being in the proper position for battle. The Cards have only forced 6 turnovers all season and are susceptible to giving up big plays often due to miss assignments or poor placement on the field. Things that are tough to forgive for guys who have been in the system for a couple seasons and playing college football for 3-4 years.

The second thing that sticks out to me this year is the good old fashioned category known as “luck.” While some write it off as nonsense there is some statistical backing in saying that the good fortune they had last season has run it’s course. The Cards we’re 3-0 last year in one possession games and very easily could have lost all three. In turn Louisville is 0-3 in one possession games in 2020 and the injury/COVID bug has bit them hard enough that in my opinion it’s actively changed the outcomes of games, including the last two games against fellow commonwealth foes out of Virginia (UVA/VT). And while the defense couldn’t find a turnover in an Arby’s kitchen the offense is handing them out like Oprah, leaving the Cards staring at a -12 margin so far this year, good enough for….[checks notes] dead last in the nation.

Can Hassan Hall carry the load at running back without Javian Hawkins? Or is Hawkins’s departure a crippling one for this offense?

I wouldn’t call it crippling, but it hurts for sure. For your readers who may have missed it Hawkins has opted out for the remainder of 2020 to prep for the draft. You got a guy who dropped over 1,500 yards last season on the ground and was going to blow past 1,000 this season as well who is now just…gone. Hassan Hall is a solid back but he was out last week due to a death in the family. In his absence the Cards has some guys get an opportunity in Jalen Mitchell and Maurice Burkley. While I don’t anticipate a three headed monster to fill the void they are absolutely going to need a couple of those guys playing like mythical creatures to replicate the production of Hawkins. Hall was also limited earlier this year as he caught a bad case of “fumbleitis” for a couple games, which UofL absolutely cannot afford in an offense that tends to shoot itself in the foot at times. I think Hall and Burkley get the majority of the carries on Friday and they mix in Mitchell or Aidan Robbins if necessary.

The defense is clearly an issue. But what’s the most glaring problem of what’s likely a list of several?

I touched on it briefly above so in lieu of having to go to the HR department I’ll avoid any excess touching and just hit you with the facts, maam.

-Lack of turnovers

-Vulnerable to big plays-Lack of depth

-IMO, vets underperforming in key spots

NCAA Football: Louisville at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Malik Cunningham’s running ability could be a real issue for SU’s young linebackers, who’ve struggled against mobile QBs this year (and really, every year since at least 2005). What sort of game do you think Louisville gets from Cunningham on Friday night?

I have no clue, John. You could tell early this year the staff was leaning on his arm a bit more than they did in 2019 and I’m not sure if it was to open up the run game a bit more or if they just felt as if they wanted to keep the ball in his hands some more in 2020. Either way his passing numbers have suffered. Sure, he has more yardage and a similar completion percentage but while his attempts per game have almost doubled from 2019 his yards/att have dropped by around 3 yards, he went from the most efficient QB in the country last season to a mid level guy in the ACC (149.20 QBR) and he has a tough to swallow 15/9 TD/INT ratio.

With all that said, I think last week we saw him rely on his legs a bit more than maybe even Satterfield is comfortable with but it translated to nearly 200 yards on the ground that paired well with the 160+ yards he had in the air. He WAS the offense last week while both Hawkins and Tutu Atwell were out of the game. If Tutu is out again this week I wouldn’t be surprised to see him put some of that weight on his shoulders again and try and take advantage of that young group in the middle.

Notre Dame’s potentially going to win the ACC and then leave again. Should the Irish just be all the way in or all the way out of the conference at this point?

If you have any Irish fans that hop over to Nunes on occasion or have any of the “I like the Orange… but I also cheer for Notre Dame” type fans reading this go ahead and skip to the next question.

Ok, now that those guys/gals are gone… I despise Notre Dame. Yes, for all the same played out reasons people have been spouting for years, but often those narratives hold a bit of truth. Is there some jealousy that they have their own network contract, have an extremely deep following nationwide, and always seem to get talent even when they drop in a 4-8 season? Yes. I’m man enough to admit that, but I still don’t like them. If they want to bring that $15 million into our shared revenue each year then welcome aboard, matey. Take a seat on the poop deck and we’ll be right with you after we count this money. Otherwise, go play the military academies and Stanford and tout your titles from before the internet existed.

From the outside, what do you feel like Syracuse’s biggest problems are this year?

I have some legitimate concerns about the rising number of car thefts in Onondaga County, and the increase in Corona cases in Oswego schools is a bit concerni- ohhhh, I bet you meant football, didn’t you? That’s on me.

From an outsider’s perspective it appears the passing game has been a bit…”inconsistent” this year? Juggle a few QBs is tough especially when none of them have proven to be the next coming of Eric Dungey. Not to discriminate the rushing attack has beena tad woeful as well. It’s tough to win games in the ACC only putting up around 18 points each week unless you have a stellar defense, which while we’re on the topic it appears a stellar defense the Orange do not have. You all certainly know more than me but it looks like there are some younger guys at key spots which may take some time to find their groove. I really like Dino Babers so I hope he can figure it out.

NCAA Football: Music City Bowl-Mississippi State vs Louisville Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Any unsung U of L players that SU fans should be more aware of?

Marshon Ford, who on paper is an H-back that wears #83, but is #1 in our hearts. A do-all young man who went from walk-on to lead blocker extraordinaire to legit offensive weapon out of the backfield. Good hands and real threat in the redzone to make plays.

On defense, even though he had some bonehead plays last week, Monty Montgomery (LB) is an animal that can cause chaos in the backfield. He’s got 7.5 TFL and 4 sacks but is always chasing folks out of the pocket.

Name the one Orange player that most concerns you heading into this game.

Mikel Jones. If he makes Malik uncomfortable or causes headaches in the run game it could be a tough night for the Cards. The offensive line has had troubles keeping people out of the backfield and if Cuse wants to send Jones often he’ll likely find himself in a spot to make a play more than I’d like to see.

If Syracuse is going to pull off the upset, how do you think that happens?

Continue the trend of teams before them and force Louisville into untimely turnovers. UofL outgained UVA last week by over one hundred yards…that’s a whole football field, folks. But yet lost the game because they had a pick six and lost two fumbles in the forth quarter. Tale as old as time, can’t score without the ball.

Prediction time: Who wins this one and why?

I love Friday night football. Something about it brings me back to early 2000s UofL football where they played a lot of weeknight names and sprung some upsets while building themselves into a program worthy to join the ACC over six years ago. I think Louisville is more talnted than Syracuse, but they have been more talented than a few teams this year, and that has not translated into wins.

I envision Cunningham putting up a decent stat line this week and we see Hassan or Burkley go for 90+ on the ground to help balance the attack. Syracuse can only force 2 turnovers this week which keeps it close for a while before a late score creates separation. Cards 38-Orange 24.

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Thanks again to Cardinal Strong for taking the time out to answer these. Follow Card Chronicle on Twitter and check out the site too, for all things Louisville.