Following a bye week, the Syracuse Orange football team is 5-4 and has a real shot to make it to a bowl game despite the odds against them to start this year. The first of three games standing in the way of that? The Louisville Cardinals, who are 4-5 and could also really use a win on Saturday if they want to make the postseason.
Since we’re not Louisville fans, we went ahead and asked one about what to expect from the Cards on Saturday. John (who you can follow on Twitter) at Card Chronicle provides responses to our questions below. We give some answers over there too, which you can read here.
Alright, who’s winning the ACC this year? There are very few wrong answers.
Tough to say. Seems pretty wide open, but I like what I see out of Maryland.... huh? Oh, not in ACC anymore. NC State is probably frontrunner to me, but sleeper pick is that the ACC awards Duke with the football championship as a farewell gift to Coach K and everyone on Tobacco road just shakes their head, claps, chuckles, and says “well, they do kind of deserve it” and then John Swofford pops out of a championship cake to tell us how good a man Kzyskwgjkiserki is and everyone is like, “why are you here, you’re not the commish anymore?” and he says he’s been bunkered down in the cake for over 400 days just waiting to surprise Coach because he loves him so much.
The ACC Network runs Duke football program highlights for like 17 minutes before running out of film and then Carlos Boozer randomly breaks down game film of their 48-0 loss to Virginia before it cuts to a Regional Sports Network so the ACC can show a volleyball match between UNC and Georgia Tech from 2018.
Real answer? Wake Forest, because that would be my least favorite result, and that seems about on par for how the 2021 season has gone thus far.
Louisville’s 4-5 on the year, but still very much in the hunt for a bowl game. How do Cards fans feel about this season? Or is it too soon to tell what to think?
Last week, I said the fans’ reaction to 2021 would be largely dependent upon how the last four games went. Losing to Clemson... again, after having multiple chances in the final minute to win the game... again, is not a great start.
Satt has burned a few bridges with some of his off the field antics and some of the play calling head scratchers late in the game. The staff has also taken heat for their continual fourth quarter meltdowns this year. If the Cards go 4-8 or 5-7 I actually think the athletic department at least has a conversation about if things are moving in the right direction or not with this staff. They go bowling at 6-6 or better and this season melts away into an ocean of forgetfulness and no one remembers anything about it .....except Duke being awarded a fake championship.
Despite losing Javian Hawkins, Louisville’s ground attack has been pretty formidable. What’s led the way for the Cardinals’ rushing attack? More Malik Cunningham? Improved offensive line play? A deep backfield? Or maybe just play-calling?
Even though he preaches a balanced attack, Satterfield loves the ground game. There hasn’t really been that one stud that jumped out of the backfield this year, but I’ve liked the production from Jalen Mitchell and Trevion Cooley, both freshmen in terms of eligibility. Mitchell is a bit more ground and pound while Cooley is slippery with some jets. They can keep you honest, but the run game still goes through Cunningham.
Some of them are designated QB runs, others are not, but if you don’t spy him he’ll slip away for 8-12yards consistently and have you checking your D-line coaches credentials mid way through the half. His stats are a bit skewed with sack yardage factored in but he’ll likely push for 900+ on the season and currently sits at No. 3 nationally in rushing touchdowns with 15. If he can keep those wheels healthy (injured his foot last week) he can cause problems for sure.
How much does losing Kei’Trel Clark impact the Cardinals’ passing defense? Obviously he’s a great player, but also seems like Louisville struggles to stop the pass as a team.
The loss hurts. Anytime you lose your top player at a position it’s going to impact the game. Clemson picked on them a bit last week but I think objectively speaking they did fine against a pass offense that was sputtering a bit coming in. The Louisville defense played well enough last week without Clark to win the game and that was encouraging to see considering the stars could have aligned for DJ to have a breakout game against an average secondary. Fortunately the remainder of the schedule is a bit more run heavy (Orange included), but I would not be shocked if Babers lets Shrader sling it a bit more than usual.
Considering you’ve largely observed the Orange from afar this year, what do you make of SU through nine games?
Ticked it off as a clear win before the season began and didn’t really alter that opinion until a few weeks back. They had lost three in a row, their best win was likely over Liberty, and fans were dusting off their ‘Boeheim’s Army’ t-shirts before Halloween. I was surprised/impressed with the win over Va Tech (they hate that) and then thought they looked motivated against an okay BC team. The bye to get healthy has my confidence level dropping from like 90% to closer to a 60-65% range. Tucker is impressive and the defense has surprised me thus far. More complete than I expected them to be for sure.
Any ideas on how Louisville will be able to stop Sean Tucker on the ground?
The rushing defense has played pretty well all things considered. They had a couple season ending injuries in the front seven but they’ve responded by holding teams around 130 yds/game. They have some guys up front who can create some negative plays in Gillotte and Peterson and Yasir Abdullah and CJ Avery at the second level are pretty good at preventing a 4 yard gain from turning into a 13 yard gain. I think Tucker will still eat a bit, but I think he’ll be closer to that 100-yard mark than the 140 he’s used to getting.
Name an unsung UofL player that Syracuse fans should get more familiar with.
One guy Louisville has missed who will be back this week is Lamar Jackson. Seriously, they’re retiring his number this week and my man will be in the building and still has a season of eligibility left sooooo... who knows. If Lamar decides not to suit up, the answer is Jordan Watkins. The freshman wideout likely isn’t on any ACC punduit radar’s but he leads the team in receiving yardage and has really shined the last few weeks making some big plays when they needed a spark. He’s a local prospect who fans really like seeing step up as the season has progressed. Another more well known candidate is Marshon Ford. The H-back is a weapon, especially in the red zone, and another favorite target for Cunningham.
Any Syracuse player — beyond Tucker — that you’re most concerned about?
The Louisville secondary has a habit of launching Heisman campaigns the last few seasons so the easy answer is Shrader. If he can start slinging it around, get comfortable, open up the run game for Tucker, it could be a shootout late and that will not be a good situation for this staff/team. Evidence shows this team folds in close late game situations and if we have another tight one I don’t like their chances based upon past performance. No Clark and a comfy QB is a recipe for disaster.
Prediction time: Who wins this one and why?
I hinted at my lean while disclosing my confidence level above but this will likely be closer than I thought it would be just three or four weeks ago. I think the Louisville offense can still put up some points and the defense will hold Tucker in check enough that the Cuse offense will be a bit out of rhythm at the start. I’ll say Cunningham has a TD pass over 50 yards and goes for two scores on the ground as well. Some adjustments from Syracuse make it closer late but the Cards create enough separation to hold on. Cards 31- Cuse 24. Lamar gets to see a win and gets a framed jersey....which he immediately is forced to gift to Coach K for his farewell tour. Damn you, ACC.