Cardinal Authority checks in with Cuse Nation publisher Mike McAllister with a few questions on Syracuse's upcoming visit to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium
1. The Louisville offensive front has struggled with consistency all season. What type of pass rush should the Cardinals expect?
Syracuse's pass rush has been inconsistent. Their best edge rusher is Ron Thompson. He is an athletic freak who is a former four-star prospect. The Orange like to bring pressure packages with their linebackers, corners and safeties. But against a mobile quarterback, they are more selective with their blitzing. Look for Thompson to be Syracuse's best option when they only rush four. Senior defensive end Donnie Simmons shows flashes at times, but also disappears during other stretches. In the middle, true freshman Steven Clark has been improving every game. His quickness and athleticism allows him to get penetration up the middle, and he has done that more in the last two games. What helps Louisville is that SU's best tackler and blitzer, linebacker Parris Bennett, is out with an injury.
2. The Orange have scored an ACC leading five non-offensive touchdowns this season. What is creating that success?
Syracuse has had success scoring non-offensive touchdowns because of the defense forcing a lot of turnovers early in the season and having a dynamic returner on special teams. Through their first six games, Syracuse was turning turnovers into scores, either via the pick six or scoop and score. In fact, their first score on the season came on a pick six. On special teams, Brisly Estime is fast and electric. He is a threat to take it to the house any time he touches the ball. He has returned two punts for touchdowns this season and nearly broke a few more.
3. Syracuse also features a freshman quarterback. What the strength of Eric Dungey?
The strength of Eric Dungey is his uncommon maturity and poise for a freshman. Dungey takes care of the ball, does not force it into coverage and generally makes good decisions. He has an accurate arm that is strong enough and is dangerous as a runner. Some of his best plays on the season have been off of Syracuse's option looks. He has some elusiveness and is faster than people think. Dungey has Orange fans excited about the future.
4. At 3-5 overall, is there a sense of urgency around the team to put together a win streak to become bowl eligible?
There is a sense of urgency among the fan base for sure. There is a noticeable split where some fans think Shafer and the staff need to go and a chunk that is behind Shafer and the direction of the program. Within the walls of Syracuse Athletics, however, there seems to be a sense of calmness. Of confidence in the process and in the long-term goals, at least among the coaching staff. They truly believe they are headed in the right direction and are doing things the right way. So while they want to win, and the coaches are all very competitive, they are staying the course. There is no extra urgency or panic internally.
5. What must the Orange do if they are to leave the Derby City with a victory?
If Syracuse is going to win, they have to get a strong effort from their defense. I know Louisville's defense is good, but there is confidence that the Orange offense can put up some points. The defense, however, has really struggled. Historically they have had issues with mobile quarterbacks. So if Syracuse is going to win, they have to shut down the Cardinals offense, limit Lamar Jackson's big plays with his legs, force a couple of turnovers and score touchdowns when they get into the red zone.