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Syracuse football: Five things to watch vs. Louisville

Here’s what we’re looking for on Saturday night

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

As the Syracuse Orange get ready to start the 2022 season we focus in on this week’s opponent, the Louisville Cardinals. Here’s some of the things we’re looking for on Saturday night.

Steve - The Syracuse offensive line against Louisville’s edge rushers

Louisville brings a decent pass rush to the table in the guise of Yasir Abdullah at the outside linebacker spot. I say “decent” but Abdullah has a good chance of an All-American type year if he can improve on his already impressive ten sack output from last year. Ashton Gillote is another name on the line that has made some issues for offenses from the defensive end spot. We know what Bergeron can do, but if Abdullah gets marked up on Davis or Gillote or another down lineman can pressure through our guards, it could cause Garrett Shrader to go into fight or flight mode, which won’t work out well for anyone. I think the Orange can handle the pressure, and are improved from what we saw last year, but it’s an important battle to keep an eye on.

Mike - Sean Tucker against Louisville’s front seven

Last year’s matchup against Louisville was the first time in conference play that Tucker did not break the 100-yard mark. The Cardinals now present an even tougher look with transfers Jermayne Lole (DT) and Momo Sanogo (LB) joining what was already a fierce middle of the field. While the passing game should be improved, Shrader is not going to outduel Malik Cunningham on his own. He’ll need Sean to keep the chains moving with a few breakout runs. Instead of running straight into a stacked tackle box, look for some more outside moves from #34. Balancing his cuts to both sides mixed with the occasional draw play or rush up the gut should keep Louisville guessing Tucker’s next move.

Kevin- Syracuse’s linebackers against Malik Cunningham

Facing the top dual-threat quarterback in the season opener is a tough challenge for anyone. For a Syracuse team that hasn’t slowed down Cunningham in his career, it becomes daunting. Can the Orange force him to stay in the pocket and beat them through the air or will Cunningham get on the outside and use his skills to break down the defense? For the Orange to win this game I think they need to stay disciplined and when they get a chance to bring Cunningham down they have to make the play.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Andy - Pace of Play

Last season, the Orange ranked 98th in offensive plays per game with 67.5. That number was the second lowest of the Babers era (behind the putrid 2020 season), and a far cry from the pre-2020 days when the Orange were usually in the top 5 of the country, averaging well over 80 plays per game. We’ve heard the team wants to return to an aired out system, but does that include up tempo system? Or will the Orange default to muddling the game with Sean Tucker to keep Malik Cunningham off the field? It’s a great tactical question that will show how much confidence Babers has in his new system and in his defense, when the most common sense approach says to deflate the ball, force Louisville to stop Tucker, and keep Cunningham’s drives limited.

Christian - The elephant in the room

Well, no one said it until this point.

We can talk about Sean Tucker’s excellence and the talent Syracuse has at linebacker and cornerback. At the end of the day, this Orange team is going as far as Garrett Shrader can take them. We still don’t know if Shrader’s arm improved in 11-vs-11 action. A new offensive system may help put the Syracuse quarterback in better positions, but it still comes down to him to execute the vision. The bar and tone has to be set now because Orange fans are not going to have a high level of tolerance. With a potentially better option waiting in the wings in Carlos Del-Rio Wilson and Justin Lamson (later down the line if he’s available this season), Shrader needs to show that he can connect on passes with consistency.


That’s what we’re looking for in this week’s game. What are you focused on in this matchup?