Syracuse quarterback/receivers/tight ends vs. Louisville secondary
The Syracuse passing game has been very inconsistent this season. Terrel Hunt looked brilliant against Central Michigan, leading the Orange up and down the field at will en route to a 40-point outing. The next two weeks, however, were a different story.
It started with a mistake prone performance against Louisville that saw only 20-points hit the scoreboard despite nearly 600-yards of offense. Even with the gaudy yardage put up by the Orange, Hunt still missed open receivers and had a critical pick six that turned the tide of the game.
Last week against Notre Dame, he showed flashes of a very accurate deep ball, but missed on a few other passes in the intermediate passing game. It wasn’t all his fault as his receiving corps failed to get separation against a strong Irish secondary.
That spells good news for the Cardinals and bad news for the Orange. The Louisville secondary has performed better than Notre Dame’s to date, ranking 15th in the nation in passing yards allowed at just 167-yards per game.
The Cardinals have picked off 10 opponents passes this season as well led by Gerod Holliman who leads the country with six interceptions. Cornerback Charles Gaines is one of the best cover guys in the nation.
A ball hawking secondary that is stingy despite its ability to make plays spells doom for a below average Syracuse passing attack that is missing its two biggest weapons in Brisly Estime and Ashton Broyld.
Syracuse running backs vs. Louisville linebackers
This may be one of the more intriguing matchups in this game. Syracuse has the 24th best rushing offense in the nation, largely because of Terrel Hunt’s ability to hurt defenses with his legs. Combine that with a stable of running backs at the Orange’s disposal and you have seen regular productivity from this attack.
Against a stout front seven last week, however, the offensive line failed to open the same types of rushing lanes as they had in previous weeks. Prince-Tyson Gulley and Adonis Ameen-Moore struggled to get anything going and were held to under four yards per carry.
Louisville has been the best rushing defense in the country thus far holding teams to just 58-yards per game. One of the keys is their linebacking corps getting into the backfield with regularity and racking up tackles for loss. Lorenzo Mauldin has nine of those himself on the young season.
Sophomore Keith Kelsey has been a big surprise and could give the Orange some trouble when they try to run east and west. James Burgess will also be an important part of the Cardinals defensive attack.
This will be a battle of strength against strength, but the Cardinals have an advantage with how stingy they have been this season. Don’t be surprised if true freshman Ervin Philips ends up having the most success for Syracuse from the running back position.
Syracuse offensive line vs. Louisville defensive line
Through the first three games, the Syracuse offensive line was a big strength. Against Notre Dame last week, they failed to get the same type of push and open up the same kind of running lanes they had in weeks past. They are led by NFL prospect Sean Hickey at left tackle. His only real weakness is struggling with the bull rush at times.
The key in this battle will be how John Miller, Rob Trudo and Nick Robinson block Rankins in order to try to find running room between the tackles. This will be a difficult task for the Orange line given how productive Louisville has been. Rankins strength will give the Syracuse line some problems as he plays with excellent leverage.
If the Cardinals dominate in the trenches, the Orange offense will be in for a long day. If Syracuse can control things and limit their penalties, they could put some points on the board.
Syracuse is also missing right tackle Ivan Foy. Michael Lasker will fill in, but that could be an area Louisville attacks with some extra pressure in passing situations.
Louisville quarterback/receivers/tight ends vs. Syracuse secondary
True freshman quarterback Reggie Bonnafon will get the start for Louisville in this one. The good news for him is that he faces an inconsistent Syracuse secondary who is down a man in Wayne Morgan. The bad news is he is missing his biggest weapon in DeVante Parker.
Bonnafon will have some success on the ground, as the Orange have struggled with dual threat signal callers. But the defense will mix up their looks and coverages to confuse the young athlete who has been turnover prone thus far.
Expect a lot of pressure from Syracuse which will help their secondary. James Quick and Eli Rogers will test the corners and make a few plays, but the Orange should have a small edge given the inexperience at quarterback.
Louisville running backs vs. Syracuse linebackers
As good as the Louisville rush defense has been, and it has been excellent, the Orange have been stingy in their own right. They are led by linebackers Dyshawn Davis and Cameron Lynch who are skilled at making plays behind the line of scrimmage.
The Syracuse run defense is yielding only 118-yards per game, good for 38th in the country. Louisville has a few backs that will contribute and test the Syracuse front seven. Doninque Brown has run the ball well, but has had fumble issues.
Former national champion at Auburn, Michael Dyer, is also in the mix. He is extremely talented but has been hampered by injuries. Corvin Lamb and freshman L.J. Scott are also in the mix. Lamb is a speedster which is what usually gives the Orange trouble.
Syracuse will be able to limit the impact of the Cardinals ground game here using their array of run blitzes. As much as they bring pressure to force the quarterback into a quick decision, they also use their scheme to get to running backs before they can get their momentum behind them.
Davis and Lynch will have success in this one finding open areas to get into the backfield.
Louisville offensive line vs. Syracuse defensive line
Louisville’s offensive line has been inconsistent this season, allowing over three sacks per game. That ranks 113th in the nation. Against an Orange front that loves to bring pressure and has 13 sacks through four games, that spells trouble. Much like the Orange front, the Cardinals line has struggled with penalties. Tobiah Hughley and Ryan Mack may be the most vulnerable. Look for Syracuse to attack these areas.
Ron Thompson is the most versatile and productive defensive lineman for the Orange. He starts at tackle but will also play end in various packages. He is the best pure pass rusher of the rotation of linemen they will use.
Eric Crume is a strong nose tackle who will plug holes and fill in gaps much like Rankins does on the opposite site.
John Raymon, defensive tackle who has not played since week seven of last season due to a knee injury, is back this week. It is unclear how much he will play, but he gives Syracuse their best pass rushing option as a pure tackle if healthy.
Given the struggles of the Louisville offensive line and the ability of Syracuse to get into the backfield, the Orange should have the upper hand in this matchup.
Syracuse special teams vs. Louisville special teams
Syracuse’s kicking game has been very inconsistent with walk-on freshman Cole Murphy taking over for Ryan Norton. Murphy has a stronger leg, but both struggle with accuracy. The loss of Brisly Estime impacts the punt return game as the Orange will turn to Ritchy Desir. Desir is solid, but is not the dynamic threat of Estime.
Punter Riley Dixon is one of the best in the conference and is a big weapon for the Orange in the field position battle. He has thrown a touchdown pass and run for 42-yards on a fake this season, so trickery is not out of the question.
Contrast that with Louisville punter Ryan Johnson who has been wildly inconsistent this season. Kicker John Wallace has been solid, but missed two field goals last week. The Carrier Dome conditions are ideal for kickers, but this matchup features several with accuracy issues.
The Orange will have the edge in the kicking game because of Dixon, but Louisville makes up for that with James Quick returning punts. He is a big play threat that could hurt Syracuse. But outside of week one, the Syracuse coverage units have been quite good.
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