Friday Night Fight: Louisville at Syracuse


Last Time: After trailing 10-7 to end the first quarter, Louisville rallied to score 34 unanswered in the following three quarters to blow out the Orange 41-17. Kyle Bolin netted a season high 362 yards and three touchdowns, and Trumaine Washington had a 39 yard interception return for a touchdown to start the scoring spree for Louisville.

With the win, Louisville holds the all-time series lead 8-7.

This Time: Both teams enter tonight 1-0, and looking to get an early leg up in conference play.

About the Syracuse Orange

After a largely unsuccessful three-year run with Scott Shafer, Syracuse hired Bowling Green head coach Dino Babers to try to revive Syracuse football. Babers led FCS Eastern Illinois to deep runs in the playoffs, and then brought Bowling Green to back-to-back MAC championships, winning last season before moving to upstate New York.

For many that do not know about Babers, he has developed a reputation as one of the top rising offensive minds in the FBS. His system is all about running an insanely fast tempo (kind of like what Charlotte wanted to do last week), and has been a topic of discussion leading up to tonight’s game after Petrino’s comments in the Monday presser. Expect a lot of short passes, and stuff to get the ball out of quarterback Eric Dungey’s hands.

On defense, Brian Ward returns as Dino’s defensive coordinator. Ward runs a Tampa 2 concept for his defense, and while it isn’t known as a defensive colossus, it may not need to be with how much Bowling Green had scored. Ward has some solid defensive assets like linebacker Zaire Franklin and CB Corey Winfield. The basic thing about a Tampa 2 is that it is a cover 2 scheme, but the middle linebacker will either (A) play at the line to attack the run, and/or (B) drop into a deep zone to take away intermediate to deep routes. While it may seem like a Syracuse stereotype to run a zone at all costs (looking at you, Jim Boeheim), Ward will throw an occasional wrinkle in the Tampa 2 like stunts, man coverage, etc. Syracuse made a lot of use of the nickel package and a 2-4-5 scheme, where linebackers manned the ends and defensive ends went inside to tackle. While the defense isn’t nearly as talked about as its offense, it could present some interesting challenges for Lamar Jackson.

Players to Watch

  • QB Eric Dungey: In Babers’ new offense, Dungey is going to be the catalyst for what Babers wants to do. Dungey is a dual-threat guy in the sense that he can sit in the pocket and make good throws, but he can escape under pressure and get a few yards here and there. Dungey threw for 355 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-7 win over Colgate on 34-of-40 passing.
  • WR Amba Etta-Tawo: A.E.T. is an all-name candidate and had a breakout game against FCS Colgate last week, nearly matching his 2015 season totals with 210 yards and a touchdown on 12 catches. The Maryland grad transfer might be Louisville’s biggest threat on the Syracuse offense both vertically and in the short passing game, and could be line for another huge number of targets.
  • LB Zaire Franklin: Franklin stands as the key player on Syracuse’s defense in a deep group. As the MLB in the Tampa 2, Zaire is primarily going to be responsible for keeping Lamar in check at the line for running, and passing by dropping into a deep zone. With a secondary that may be challenged by Louisville’s receiving group and a young defensive line, Franklin will have to play a major role for the Orange to have a shot at an upset.

Keys to Victory

  1. Strong passing game. Part of being able to beat the Tampa 2 defense, like the one Louisville will see tomorrow, is to find holes in the zone and attack it. Kyle Bolin had a lot of success last year attacking the defense because they could not generate pressure. Lamar Jackson could potentially attack the zone and have another big day, if Syracuse cannot keep him in check.
  2. Up the tempo. With a lot of quick passes and an insanely fast tempo, Louisville has to be careful to not bend too much on it and make good jumps on the football. They showed a lot of success last week with guys like Jaire Alexander being able to make one-on-one tackles in the perimeter, especially on screens and short passes. Louisville will have to be great again at this juncture in order to stop Syracuse’s  offense.
  3. Continue to block well. Louisville struggled early to contain Charlotte’s aggressive blitzes, but settled in after a couple of drives, and it led to Jackson scoring eight touchdowns in a half. Even though Syracuse only got one sack and some turnovers, Syracuse was just simply overmatched by the Louisville offense, with Bolin throwing for 362 yards and Radcliff running for 117. If Louisville continues to block well enough for Jackson to attack the Syracuse defense, this could be another big night for him.

Staff Predictions

All picks were in favor of Louisville.

Justin Krueger: 45-20. I generally like the hire of Dino Babers to Syracuse, and he should get Syracuse up and running soon. However, a dynamic Louisville offense will power Louisville to pulling away after a competitive first half.

LJ The Fiasco: 33-24. Game will be tight in the first half with both offenses putting together drives. Ultimately defense takes over and offense ices game with late score.

Jeremy Wahman: 48-20. Syracuse will hang tight in the first and second quarters, then boom.

Jacob Pratt: 42-10. Louisville destroys again, leading to an easy win and some rest for the starters heading into next week’s game against Florida State.

Jeff Nunn: 35-24. The noise, coupled with the fact that new coach Dino Babers runs a high-powered offense, could make this game a lot easier. A lack of experience and new offensive system can be problematic for them. I believe this game will be closer than we would like, and a late score secures the win.

Paige Sherrard: 40-14.

Mitch Motley: 45-10.

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