SCOUTING THE OFFENSE
In the past, Bobby Petrino has been known as an offensive genius but the last two seasons, the Cardinals have been subpar on that side of the ball. With the reputation of throwing the ball all over the field, Petrino has gone against that in his second go around with the Cardinals. In fact, Louisville has run the ball nearly 50 more times than they have thrown it this season.
Louisville uses multiple formations, from five wide to three tight ends, utilizes the zone-read to take advantage of their athletic quarterback and generally throws the ball quickly to get the ball in the hands of their receivers. They will, however, take shots downfield off of playaction.
QB Lamar Jackson: Jackson is a true freshman with a lot of ability. He is extremely athletic and has a strong arm. But with his youth has come mistakes. He is completing only 58% of his passes while throwing seven interceptions to his eight touchdowns. Jackson is a dangerous playmaker who is a true dual threat quarterback, but he can turn the ball over when pressured. He also leads the Cardinals in rushing.
RB/QB Reggie Bonnafon: With the Louisville running backs struggling to be consistently productive and Jackson emerging at quarterback, Bonnafon has become a reliable threat after moving to running back from quarterback. He is used in the zone-read with Jackson and catches passes out of the backfield. The Cards also can use him in a variety of formations given his experience at the quarterback position.
WR Jamari Staples: Staples ia big play threat for the Cardinals in the passing game. He has size, speed, leaping ability and runs solid routes. Look for Louisville to go deep to him on a number of occasions to exploit a weak Syracuse secondary.
WR James Quick: Quick is another big play threat who can line up at any wide receiver spot for Louisville. He leads the Cardinals in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. He should be heavily involved in their game plan.
Louisville's offensive line has been an issue this season. They have played 10 offensive linemen and their rushing attack has suffered as a result. Their starting running back, Brandon Radcliff, is averaging only 3.5 yards per carry. The line has been a big reason why the offense has been inconsistent this season.
There are pieces to like on the Louisville offense, but the play of the line can mask some of that. Jackson is a legitimate dynamic playmaker that will create problems for Syracuse. The Cardinals have a solid group of receivers that could exploit the Orange secondary. The key for Syracuse is to get penetration and pressure on Jackson in order to try to force him into bad decisions.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE
The Louisville defense is a 3-4 attacking scheme. They blitz frequently out of any alignment using linebackers, corners or safeties to bring pressure. Their defensive line is their best unit. The Cardinal linebackers are athletic and fast. The secondary has solid cover guys who can also play in the box if needed.
DE Sheldon Rankins: Rankins is a big, physical defensive end who is a perfect fit for Louisville's 3-4 scheme. Not only is he a big body with elite strength, but he is more agile and athletic than you'd think. Rankins is one of the top defensive linemen in the ACC and will challenge the Syracuse offensive line.
S Josh Harvey-Clemons: Harvey-Clemons is a nice combination of the in the box safety and the cover safety. He can do a bit of everything. He leads the Cardinals defensive backs in tackles and makes plays all over the field. With a nose for the ball, he should be quite active on Saturday.
ILB Keith Kelsey: The leading tackler for Louisville, Kelsey is an inside linebacker who has quickness, athleticism, strength and tackles well. He reads and reacts very well, is a strong blitzer and frequently plays on the opponents' side of the line of scrimmage.
This Louisville defense does not have a lot of weaknesses on paper. They stop the run, holding opponents to just 3.1 yards per carry. They defend the pass, holding teams to under 200 yards per game. The Cardinals defense also forces turnovers. Their only issue is giving up the big play from time to time.
The Louisville defense is a very, very good unit with strength, speed and athleticism. They force turnovers and are very aggressive. They will certainly cause problems for the Orange offense if Syracuse is not disciplined.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS
K John Wallace: Wallace has struggled with accuracy this season, making only nine out of 14 attempts. He has been solid in the past, but inconsistent in 2015.
KR Corvin Lamb: Lamb may only have a long return of 33 yards, but he is a dynamic threat with elite speed. He is a threat to take it to the house any time he touches the ball.
PR Jaire Alexander: Alexander is a solid returner with some elusiveness, but is not a huge threat to make a big play.