NCAA Friday Night Football: Louisville/Syracuse Preview

by Big Al Staff

The Friday night college football game on ESPN involves two ACC teams with disappointing 1-6 records in conference play.

Syracuse has lost five games in a row after a narrow 16-13 loss to Boston College as a 14.5-point underdog on November 7th. Freshman quarterback JaCobian Morgan made his first collegiate start in that game with mixed results. He completed 19 of 30 passes for just 188 yards with a touchdown pass and an interception. The Orange only gained 240 yards but were only on the field for just over 21 minutes.

Head coach Dino Babers moved to the freshman under center with Rex Culpepper struggling in his three starts. The senior has completed only 46.4% of his passes this season with five touchdown passes but six interceptions in 112 pass attempts. He had taken over in mid-October after junior Tommy Devito suffered a season-ending able injury. Syracuse is scoring only 18.3 points-per-game this season, which is 114th in the nation. Their 263.8 yards-per-game mark is 123rd in the country.

The Orange’s defense has not fared much better as they rank 103rd in the FBS by allowing their opponents to average 464.4 yards-per-game. Syracuse lost six of their top eight tacklers from last year’s unit that ranked 115th in the nation by giving up 464.1 yards-per-game. The Orange are 1-7 on the season, with their lone win this year against Georgia Tech in September. Babers had 11 starters return from the team that finished 5-7 last year. He has a 24-32 record in his five seasons at Syracuse, with this being his fourth losing season.

Louisville has lost two games in a row as well as six of their last seven contests after their 31-17 loss at Virginia last Saturday. Head coach Scott Satterfield settled for the loss despite the Cardinals outgaining the Cavaliers by 110 net yards. Ye three Louisville turnovers were too much to overcome. Junior quarterback Micale Cunningham threw an interception returned for an 85-yard touchdown that began the scoring for the Cavs. Cunningham later fumbled in Virginia territory with 8:22 left in the fourth quarter to short circuit a potential game-tying touchdown.

Those events have been the recurring story of the season in Satterfield’s second year with the program. Louisville has turned the ball over 18 times this season, which is the third-most in the nation. The Cardinals have a -12 net turnover margin, which has overwhelmed their +48.5 net yards-per-game advantage.

Cunningham rushed for a career-high 197 yards against Virginia on 20 carries with two touchdowns. He completed 13 of 21 passes for 161 yards with no touchdown passes and that one interception. Cunningham is completing 63.2% of his passes for 1907 yards with 15 touchdown passes but nine interceptions, and the dual-threat has added 417 yards on the ground with five more touchdowns. He will not have Javian Hawkins in the backfield after he decided to opt-out for the rest of the season to prepare for the NFL draft. The redshirt sophomore rushed for 822 yards on 6.2 yards-per-carry with seven touchdowns this season. He also had 127 receiving yards with one touchdown reception. Junior running Hassan Hall expects to return after being out the last three games.

Louisville returned 16 starters from the team that finished 8-5 with their 38-28 win over Mississippi State in the Music City Bowl. The Cardinals have victories against Western Kentucky and Florida State, but their 2-6 record is far below expectations.

Louisville won their meeting last season with Syracuse by a 56-34 score, with Cunningham throwing a career-high five touchdown passes in the victory. BetAnySports lists the Cardinals as an 18.5-point favorite with the total set at 56.5. The ESPN broadcast begins at 7 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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