Tomorrow, Syracuse takes on Louisville in a game that the upstart Orange are actually underdogs for.
Even after the Orange throttled the best and only ranked Big East team last Friday, the bookies realize the same thing all football fans should have by now: the Big East is anything but predictable.
This week, Doug Marrone and Syracuse face off against the one thorn in their side. Marrone has never defeated Louisville, and this game is not looking any easier this year. Louisville showed their potential by knocking off a Rutgers team that looked poised for a Big East run.
Regardless, this week Syracuse has a tremendous opportunity to show their legitimacy within the conference and gain more traction on a BCS birth.
Louisville makes it offense run by, well…running the ball.
After the injury to Will Stein at quarterback, Louisville found success with a running-back-by-committee approach. Jeremy Wright, Victor Anderson, and Dominique Brown have all had 40 carries, but Wright has emerged as the go-to back at this point.
One hundred-eight of Wright’s team leading 284 yards came last week against Rutgers, so expect him to be fed the ball often.
Chandler Jones’ return last week showed the full potential of the defensive line. He and his partner in crime Mikhail Marinovich wreaked havoc on West Virginia’s line, and it will take another performance like that if the Orange want to escape with the upset.
Louisville has not won any game with their offense.
The Cardinals rank dead last in the NCAA in scoring offense with only 16.3 points a game, but they have yet to allow an opponent to score more than 24 points, and that high mark only occurred once.
The rest of the season, they have only allowed 17.1 points a game, 14th best in the nation. Furthermore, they have the 15th-best overall defense with a remarkable 302.7 yards allowed a game.
For Syracuse, this game presents a huge challenge for an offense that has had only one hiccup all season.
Ryan Nassib struggled against Rutgers’ cover 2, and Louisville is sure to imitate that look all game in an effort to frustrate a quarterback who just outplayed Geno Smith.
The key to the Orange’s success versus the Mountaineers was the offensive line. They were able to stand tall and open holes for Antwon Bailey and provide protection for Nassib.
If the offensive can maintain protection for Nassib, the Orange will be able to score points as Louisville has yet to face a balanced and yet potent attack like the Orange possess.
Louisville’s passing game is struggling.
Ever since Stein’s injury, freshman Teddy Bridgewater has taken over at quarterback and taken the job for the Cardinals.
His numbers have not been stellar, though. He’s passed for 831 yards with five touchdowns, but he also has six interceptions.
This should be something Phillip Thomas and the rest of the Syracuse secondary is salivating over. This secondary has been criticized and scrutinized all year by all who have watched the defense, but this week they can shine. Louisville lacks an explosive playmaker on offense, opening the door for aggressive play in the secondary.
Watch for Thomas to take a more aggressive role in this game as he has continued to attack at the line and make plays in the backfield. This style of play has led to him leading the team with 53 tackles.
The secondary will be able to play they have wanted to all year, and if they are smart about it, they will make huge plays.
I promise that’s the last time I try to use a pun for a title.
But legitimately, Van Chew has gone completely missing and this is the last time I write about it.
Nick Provo, Dorian Graham and Alec Lemon have all taken leaps and bounds since the first weeks when Chew was Nassib’s favorite target. Chew has only three touchdowns on the year, and none since the USC game.
The only reason this is so worrisome is because Chew looked like the gamebreaker for the Orange.
Against West Virginia, Syracuse did not have any truly “big” offensive plays on offense; they won the game with their conservative offense.
However, in a tight defensive game such as what Louisville presents, an explosive play can mean the difference between a win and a loss. Just look at the Rutgers game, where Syracuse could not get anything going.
Rutgers was able to intercept Nassib, and that galvanized them going into overtime.
While Graham can electrify on special teams, the offense needs to show the same spark, especially if Syracuse wants to be a BCS contender.