Syracuse football heads into its 2022 season opener on the Hill this Saturday evening as a betting underdog versus fellow Atlantic Coast Conference team Louisville.
A year ago, the Orange dropped three in a row to end 2021 at 5-7 overall. The Cardinals finished at 6-7, although that included a close setback in a bowl game.
Both squads, in 2021, fell multiple times to opponents in tight-knit contests that could have gone either way.
As we look ahead to the upcoming campaign, Louisville is projected to finish higher in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings than the ‘Cuse, but the Orange has an opportunity here to grab some momentum at the onset of 2022.
Here are the keys for Syracuse football to dispatch of the Cardinals.
First up, to me, is that the ‘Cuse could really use a big play early on in this encounter. Syracuse football is opening a stanza in Central New York for the first time since 2017.
Head coach Dino Babers believes that the student section will be rocking, and if the Orange could grab a touchdown, a turnover – something to get the home crowd riled up in the game’s first few minutes – I think that would prove huge.
As we noted in another recent column, Louisville has the ability to score points in droves, or at least it did a season ago.
The Cardinals’ redshirt senior quarterback, Malik Cunningham, is a big-time dual-threat player, and he can hurt the ‘Cuse with efficient passing or on the ground himself.
The Syracuse football defensive line is young and somewhat inexperienced. It also looks like one of the team’s top defensive linemen, Steve Linton, is not listed on the Orange’s week-one depth chart, and that concerns me.
The rest of the Syracuse football defensive line has to play well, and it’s imperative that Orange guys put some pressure on Cunningham, forcing him to make bad decisions whether through the air or with his legs.
Speaking of that, I really feel like the ‘Cuse needs to win the turnover battle against Louisville. Picking off passes or forcing fumbles could give the Orange some short fields, which I’m hoping would enable Syracuse football to pile up some touchdowns, rather than settling for field goals.
To that end, while I think that ‘Cuse placekicker Andre Szmyt is going to bounce back from a so-so 2021 term and prove stellar this fall, it’s important for the Orange to get the football into the end zone, as opposed to kicking field goals.
Because the Cardinals can light up the scoreboard (they defeated the ‘Cuse, 41-3 at home, in 2021), Syracuse football, to me, has to take some chances and try to grab TDs versus attempting field goals.
There is excitement brewing that the Orange’s new assistant coaches on offense will help propel the ‘Cuse to a more balanced attack in 2022.
Let’s see if that happens out of the gates against Louisville. While I love All-American running back Sean Tucker, and I assume he’ll do his usual thing versus the Cardinals, quarterback Garrett Shrader and the Syracuse football wide receivers have to do some damage of their own.
I love my beloved Orange, but I’m going to level with you. If the ‘Cuse offense is, similar to last year, one-dimensional again in 2022, it’s going to drive me nuts. This includes, by the way, throwing to the tight end with frequency!
Plus, even if the Orange isn’t scoring right and left, if the ‘Cuse can sustain long drives, that would prove massive, because it keeps Cunningham & Co. off of the field, and it gives the Syracuse football defense a chance to rest.
It’s been well-documented that the Orange has a stellar group of linebackers and defensive backs on the current roster. Those players will be thoroughly tested by Cunningham.
That being said, Louisville does have multiple new wide receivers in 2022, and I’m hoping that Syracuse football defenders can take advantage of the Cardinals QB and his WRs potentially not being fully in sync during week one.
Whether it’s Maximilian von Marburg or James Williams doing the punting, the Orange’s punter has to pin Louisville deep as much as possible, so that the Cardinals’ offense has to work with long fields.
Conversely, if the ‘Cuse could acquire some short fields on offense as a result of Trebor Pena providing strong returns on Louisville kick-offs and punts, that would be significant.
Last but not least, as this is a hot-button topic among some of my fellow Syracuse football fans, but I would love to see sound clock management and use of timeouts by Babers and his staff.
All of this isn’t too much to ask, right?