Bowl eligibility or a home loss. On Saturday we'll know.
Louisville comes into the Carrier Dome this Saturday. A lot rides on this game for Syracuse, so a closer examination is in order. Therefore we exchanged questions with Mark of The Collision Course, a fine Louisville centered blog. Enjoy.
1. Orange::44: Give an outsiders view of the Syracuse program so far this season?
The Collision Course: There's definite improvement in year one under Charlie Strong. Last week notwithstanding, the offense has been remarkably improved, especially the play of running back Bilal Powell. And the defense, even after a couple of tough games against talented offenses, is playing its best football of the year. I think if you'd told fans prior to the season that Louisville would be 4-4 going to Syracuse, they'd have been thrilled.
2. Orange::44: Louisville, like Syracuse, is experiencing a better than expected season. How do you view Louisville so far and where do you see them at the end of the season?
CC: I think Louisville is going to find a way to a bowl. 6-6 seems pretty likely, which means splitting these last four games against Syracuse, West Virginia, South Florida, and Rutgers. So much of how this season winds up will depend on the outcome of the Syracuse game Saturday.
3. Orange::44: Both RB Bilal Powell and Adam Froman are facing injuries and the possibility of not playing this weekend. What is the latest and do you think they will play? If they don't play, who will Syracuse see?
CC: The update given on Powell is that he's "day to day" with some swelling on the knee. So the good news there is that it doesn't appear to have been a serious injury, but more like a nasty bruise right on the knee. I know he and Froman did not practice on Tuesday but I expect them both to play on Saturday. If Powell doesn't or can't go, running back is actually one of the deepest positions on the Louisville team, so there's still going to be some weapons back there. Without Powell, expect Louisville to rotate Blayne Donnell, Victor Anderson, and Jeremy Wright. All three of those backs are smaller than Powell, and Anderson is really the only homerun threat of that group, but Wright and Donnell run hard between the tackles and should do a decent enough job, especially if they're just lightening Powell's load.
If Froman can't go, you'll see Justin Burke, who started a couple of games in 2009. Burke's less mobile than Froman, but the offense really doesn't use many designed runs for the quarterback anyway, so it will still just be a matter of relying on the running game and using a controlled passing game to move the chains.
4. Orange::44: Do your best to explain what is going on in the Big East this season?
CC: The thing I've been saying all along is that the 2010 season is the season where all of the coaching brain drain has come home to roost on the conference. In the past four years, the Big East has traded Bobby Petrino, Rich Rodriguez, and Brian Kelly for Steve Kragthorpe, Bill Stewart, and now Butch Jones. Jones may end up being ok, but, the coaching turnover is just killing the programs at the top and this year, the other schools have just been unable to step up. The league's best chance for respect this year was for Pitt to not lay eggs against its out of conference opponents, but that they did. I think we're at a bit of a crossroads in the Big East where UConn, Cincinnati, and Rutgers are headed back to the cellar, and Louisville, USF, Syracuse, and West Virginia are going to be good programs again. But this year, everyone sucks.
5. Orange::44: Louisville lost to Cincinnati, crushed Connecticut, and then had a poor showing against Pittsburgh. What team is going to show up in the Carrier Dome?
CC: I expect the team that played against UConn to show up. I don't think Syracuse can test Louisville through the air the way that Cincinnati did. However, I don't think Louisville's going be able to move the ball particularly well against a Syracuse team that's playing exceptionally good defense this year. I think you'll see Louisville feed a running back by committee and play good defense and perhaps try to get a big special teams play like UConn.
6. Orange::44: What is the key match ups in this game?
CC: I think the key match up in this game is Louisville's offensive line and tight ends against the Syracuse front seven. Syracuse is playing fantastic football, and in the games it has won, it has won by smothering the rushing attack of its opponents. Conversely, Louisville doesn't win anything without a big game on the ground from either Powell, or Powell + committee. If Louisville can't run better than it did against Pittsburgh, it has no chance on the road against Syracuse either.
7. Orange::44: Finally, how do you see the game turning out?
CC: I'm going to sound like a tremendous homer, but I believe Louisville is going to win this game. I think the Cardinals will get a stellar game from their own defense against a Syracuse offense that's got a banged up Van Chew at wide receiver and is probably going to be without its starting right tackle. Louisville matches up well with teams liek that. Let's not forget, the Cardinals held Pitt to 255 yards of total offense and shut UConn out the week before. I think Powell will play, and play well, and the Cards find a way to end their 11 game road Big East road losing streak, and come home to face West Virginia for a shot at a bowl berth.
Thanks to Mark for his answers. You can check out my answers to his questions when they are posted. Check out The Collision Course for all your Louisville news this season.