As we build towards the Syracuse Orange opener we wanted to get the Louisville Cardinals perspective. John Powell from Card Chronicle was kind enough to take some time and answer questions about this weekend’s ACC contest.
TNIAAM: Syracuse fans are well aware of Malik Cunningham but who are the other offensive weapons that Orange fans need to keep an eye on in this one?
CC: There’s some irony in the fact that the Cards play less than a mile from Churchill Downs and have a “stable” of backs, but there are legitimately four guys who could play at the running back spot and make an impact. My money’s on the newly named starter, Tiyon Evans who transferred into the program from Tennessee. He’s got speed, and he’s got a good motor. Three of the first six games he played in last year with the other “orange” team he cracked the century mark in rushing yards. I think they lean on him early to establish the ground game. The Cards also have a wideout transfer (Tyler Hudson) who should make some noise, but the veteran tight end Marshon Ford is likely to be Cunningham’s favorite target early, and he can eat you up with 10-15 yard gains all over the field. If I was going to get a tattoo, it would be of Marshon Ford. Absolute stud.
TNIAAM: After ten sacks last season, teams will be watching out for Yasir Abdullah. What does Louisville do to free him up to get to the quarterback? Do you think Syracuse’s running game neutralizes his impact on this one?
CC: I typed up a post on Yasir a couple weeks back during my player countdown over at Card Chronicle (shameless plug) and I actually think that Yasir may free up more this season than last with some additions along the line and in the linebacker group with Momo Sanago from Ole Miss (MLB) joining in on the fun, and new nose tackle Jermayne Lole (Arizona State) clogging up some space in the middle. Not only will those bodies create more targets to keep an eye on, but Coach Brown can be more aggressive this year knowing he also has some talent in the secondary to make plays if Turner gets through the first wave. I still think Turner cracks 100 yards, but they did a decent job of containing him last year with fewer weapons up front. UVAs OC coming over makes me think we get burned a few times, but hopefully we’re talking ointment and gauze and not a full on skin graft type recovery.
TNIAAM: Scott Satterfield is 18-19 after three seasons. He tried to get the South Carolina job and somehow he’s got the 2023 Louisville recruiting class ranked 17th right now by 247….so what sort of magic is he using? DId Jack Harlow start a NIL Collective for the Cardinals?
CC: I’m gonna share my insiders knowledge with you, the TNIAAM family because I love you guys, and I trust you………….I have no idea.
When 2021 wrapped lots of fans were left feeling “meh” after getting housed by our rival (UK) and then losing to Air Force in the bowl who decided they were gonna go full air raid on a shaky secondary and dropped the Cards under .500 to end the year. Many felt “there is no way to win this offseason” and we were destined for a lackluster summer with little excitement until 2022 started. Satterfield and staff went full ‘Double Dare’ accepting the physical challenge, and went to work. Relationships they built for the last couple years finally started paying off and having your premier recruit at QB commit early (Pierce Clarkson) and then go out and personally recruit top talent didn’t hurt, either. There is absolutely some NIL backing in some of this (many assume adidas is involved but no confirmation on that) but I do think some of this is just selling culture and the school. When Louisville gets kids on campus their chance of committing goes up significantly because I think kids from the south or out west have a perception of what Louisville is, and oftentimes it far exceeds that once they get here. Being “the only show in town” with no professional teams from the big four within an hour and a half puts the eyes on you, and that can help bring in some big names…..along with money.
TNIAAM: How do Louisville fans feel about the pre-season prediction that the Cardinals will be 3rd in the Atlantic Division? It feels like Cunningham is being overlooked for other quarterbacks in the league. Are there cries of disrespect in the Bluegrass State?
CC: In the media poll I saw they were actually 4th in the Atlantic which on first glance appears a bit outlandish, but I can see it from an outsider’s view. Clemson is sharpie at 1st every year until Dabo slips a hip going down their locker room slide and hangs up the pleated khakis. NC State is supposed to be really good this year (every 3 years we hear this narrative on que), and Wake is the defending champ so….here we are. Yes we have Malik who I believe is an All-ACC QB, yes we have talented backs and wideouts, yes we have a new defense which should create problems, but most of that is unproven. On paper the Cards can be really good, but they could also fall flat on their face. I’m sure others are like myself in that I’d rather be picked 4th than 1st in the preseason poll. One, you get some extra motivation for the old whiteboard, and second those preseason votes for ACC Champ have yet to actually account for anything of meaning once the ball gets kicked off. Pardon me for not giving a rats behind about what some old guy in Tuckertown, South Carolina thinks about my favorite football team.
TNIAAM: The Cardinals have won seven of the last eight in the series, including the last three games by a combined score of 127-37 so do you expect another Louisville rout in this one? What’s your prediction for this one?
CC: My gut, which I think is just my head and eyes watching these contests you described above the last few seasons, thinks it’s a 10-15 point game in favor of the Cards….BUT I do have some nerves. First, we never seem to play Syracuse early when they are healthy, and I know in seasons past you guys were a bit dinged up. Second, we have not played in the Carrier Dome (I will continue to call it that, sue me JMA) since 2018 and early in the year before the spirit is broken it can get a little rowdy in there. Third, the Orange played three really good teams last year to within 3 points, meaning the blowout was likely a bit more flukey than pure talent mismatch. New faces on both sides of the ball on the staff can create concern as they may throw things at you completely unexpected, which can easily create a score or two which you can’t scout for in Game 1. With all that said I’ll still go Cards 35 - Cuse 24. Tight through 3 quarters and a fourth quarter TD by Cards creates some separation at the end.
Thanks to Card Chronicle for taking part in this preview. Check out their site for a breakdown of the Orange in advance of this weekend’s game.