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Syracuse (1-7, 1-6 Atlantic Coast) is traveling to Louisville this week to face the Cardinals (2-6, 1-6) in a rare Friday night matchup.
Louisville, led by dual-threat quarterback Malik Cunningham, is coming off an eight-win 2019 campaign, but the Cardinals are experiencing a 2020 season as disappointing as SU’s. Syracuse enters the Louisville game with an extra week of rest after losing to Boston College 16-13 on Nov. 7.
Here’s how our three beat reporters think Friday’s contest will play out:
Anthony Dabbundo (6-2)
Friday Night Lights
Louisville 37, Syracuse 20
Syracuse’s offense should find some success against a mediocre Louisville defense, much as they have the last two seasons against the Cardinals.
The Orange will have more of their offense available for JaCobian Morgan, who may surprise some people Friday night following an extra two weeks of preparation as the No. 1 quarterback. But on the other side of the ball, Louisville is the ACC’s most explosive team, Malik Cunningham is a matchup nightmare at quarterback and the Orange’s tackling in space has been inconsistent at best.
Syracuse keeps this close for the first half as the defense remains stout against the Cardinals’ average red zone offense. But Louisville’s speed and big play capabilities will enable them to extend the lead in the second half and roll to a victory. Unless Cunningham’s turnover woes continue, the Orange won’t be able to keep up.
Danny Emerman (4-4)
We’re not so different, you and I
Louisville 24, Syracuse 21
Louisville might be the only team on Syracuse’s schedule that’s also dealing with opt-outs and injuries, and the matchup could feature two depleted rosters. The Cardinals will lack running back Javian Hawkins, who opted out, and the team will possibly play without star receiver Tutu Atwell due to an undisclosed injury.
Syracuse also has the advantage of coming off a bye week, which gives freshman QB Morgan extra time to find rhythm with his receivers and learn the playbook. Head coach Dino Babers has repeatedly said that the offensive calls are limited with Morgan, but that could change a bit after this extra week. Morgan has shown flashes, and I expect him to keep SU competitive, something Syracuse has only really done twice in 2020.
Adam Hillman (5-3)
Louisville 31, Syracuse 13
Syracuse’s defense has recently shown that they can fight, holding Boston College to just 16 points one week after the Eagles racked up 28 in the first half against Clemson. But Malik Cunningham represents a separate issue.
The dual-threat quarterback averages 52 rushing yards per game and 238 passing. The last time SU faced a quarterback like Cunningham was against Liberty, who shredded Syracuse for 338 rushing yards. The threat of Malik Willis’ legs kept the SU linebackers away from the backfield, and the two Flames backup running backs carved them apart.
Cunningham will replicate Willis’ performance against this depleted SU defense, and former Syracuse recruit Hassan Hall will tally a career game as a starter as Syracuse loses its sixth straight game.
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