Syracuse has one more home game to let it all fly
Nationally ranked Syracuse closes out its home schedule with a Friday night tilt against lowly Louisville. The Cardinals blasted the Orange in the teams' last two meetings, winning by a combined score of 118-38 as they racked up more than 400 rushing yards in each of the victories. Of course, there's a slightly different level of talent on Louisville's roster, as quarterback Lamar Jackson is now in Baltimore with the Ravens. The Cardinals have used three different signal-callers this season, and none has come close to Jackson's performance.
Louisville (2-7, 0-6 ACC) has lost six straight games since a 20-17 victory at home against Western Kentucky. Included in this stretch are blowouts courtesy of Virginia, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Clemson. The Tigers put up almost 700 yards of offense in a 77-16 win last week. The Cardinals can't get their running game going and are turning it over way too much. It's a recipe for disaster, which is what this team currently is. A bowl is not in the program's immediate future, and one has to wonder if the team has already packed it in for the season. The school also may choose to cut ties with head coach Bobby Petrino.
It's quite the opposite outlook for Syracuse (7-2, 4-2), which is moving up the polls as it continues to win. The Orange were 4-2 just a few weeks ago before rattling off wins over North Carolina, NC State and Wake Forest. The Orange are steamrolling opponents with a solid run game and a passing attack that has a diverse array of weapons. The offense has scored 132 points in its last three wins. The Orange have not lost yet this season at home and probably won't on Saturday either. Defensively, they'll be looking for a better effort, though, as two solid offenses (Notre Dame and Boston College) await after this one.
Louisville at Syracuse
Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Syracuse -21.5
Three Things to Watch
I was completely wrong last week about Syracuse potentially being unfocused and playing poorly. The Orange came out and took care of business in Winston-Salem after a somewhat slow start. I'll say it once again, though: Focus could be a huge issue in this one. On Nov. 17, they've got a matchup with Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium in a game that could get ESPN's College GameDay treatment. A lot of people are pointing to that one as a chance for the Irish to lose as well. Not to mention, it's Senior Night and sometimes teams struggle with the associated hoopla.
Louisville doesn't exactly have similar obstacles, other than the fact that it seems like the Cardinals have mailed it in. They are playing just six days after the loss to Clemson. They've got two home games to close out the season against NC State and Kentucky. I'd be really concerned that if this team gets down big early, it will continue to show a lack of effort. If that happens, this one becomes a laugher.
Other than focus, my one concern for Syracuse is the fact that its defense has not been up to par lately. The Orange allowed at least 500 yards of offense to North Carolina and NC State and were beaten up a bit by Wake Forest. Granted, all three games were wins, but eventually someone may slow down the Syracuse offense, so the Orange need to continue to win the turnover battle. They have forced two turnovers or more in five of its last six games. They've turned it over just seven times in their last seven games. Quarterback Eric Dungey has been very good taking care of the ball this season (just four INTs), and the offensive line has kept him upright for the most part.
The Cardinals do not take care of the ball and don't really turn teams over either. They've had three turnovers in four of their last six contests. QB Jawon Pass has 10 interceptions to just seven touchdowns through the air. Malik Cunningham got a taste at quarterback earlier in the year, and he even threw an interception in 44 attempts. Louisville's defense has forced just seven turnovers in its last seven games. The Cardinals just don't have the playmakers on that side of the ball to make things interesting.
3. Dungey's home finale
It's been a long, wild ride for Dungey as he plays his final home game in Syracuse orange and blue. Dungey has been spectacular for the Orange this season, with 13 touchdown passes and 10 rushing TDs. The signal-caller has completed 61.2 percent of his passes and has thrown just four picks. There was a brief period when some fans wanted Tommy DeVito to take over, but that was never seriously considered. The guy deserves all the accolades and all the applause he will get on Friday night. If Dungey can keep his focus and emotions in check, then he should pick apart a Louisville pass defense that has done a good limiting the yards (185.3 per game) but has surrendered 17 touchdown passes and registered just three interceptions.
Last week I picked Wake Forest to knock off the Orange, and I was wrong. This week there's no doubt in my mind that Syracuse gets the win. My only concern is whether it will be close at all. Sometimes, the emotions of senior night cause slow starts for the home team. Even so, Louisville's offense just doesn't have enough to take advantage. The Cardinals are averaging 112.8 rushing yards per contest. Louisville also has covered just one of its nine games this season and 11 of its last 35 overall. This one will get really ugly in another coming out party for the Orange.
Prediction: Syracuse 44, Louisville 17
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.