Week 11 - Louisville at Syracuse

Posted Nov 7, 2012

Week 11 Fearless Prediction – Louisville at Syracuse

Louisville (9-0) at Syracuse (4-5) Nov. 10, 12:00, ABC

Here's The Deal: Louisville has entered the top 10, and is 9-0 for the first time in school history. Things are about to get real tough for head coach Charlie Strong and his coaching staff.

The challenge ahead for the Cardinals transcends simple X's and O's. The young program must also deal with the myriad distractions associated with wearing a fat target and being one of the six remaining unbeaten teams in the FBS. The encouraging news for Louisville is that it's coming off one of its best showings of the season, a rare blowout of an opponent. It dismantled Temple at Papa John's Stadium, 45-17, coasting after a slow start in the opening frame.

Syracuse is teetering on the brink of postseason extinction with three weeks left in the season. Things were looking up late in the third quarter last week at Nippert Stadium, but Cincinnati scored the final two touchdowns in a 35-24 victory. Now, the Orange must win two of the final three games, which includes a road trip to Mizzou next week, in order to become bowl eligible and improve Doug Marrone's job security.

Why Louisville Might Win: QB Teddy Bridgewater won't allow any other outcome.

The sophomore has quietly been outstanding in 2012, rising to No. 5 nationally in passing efficiency. Since playing in a monsoon in Hattiesburg a month ago, Bridgewater has thrown 10 touchdown passes and just a single pick. He's the embodiment of Charlie Strong's team, a poised leader who gets better when the outcome hangs in the balance. He's also supported by a quality collection of skill players, like backs Senorise Perry and Jeremy Wright, and a deep group of wide receivers. Syracuse has allowed 71 points over the last two weeks, and has been especially vulnerable to the run.

Why Syracuse Might Win: Louisville has too often played to the level of its competition, allowing the likes of Florida International, Southern Miss and South Florida into games that should be out of reach.

The offensive backfield aside, the Cardinals have lacked consistency all year. Not only has the pass rush been a problem, but the team's best edge guy, DE Lorenzo Mauldin, is now out with an injury. The Orange, on the other hand, leads the Big East in both total offense and passing offense, and has become increasingly balanced as the season has unfolded. Veteran QB Ryan Nassib has thrown 18 touchdown passes, maximizing the talent of receivers Marcus Sales, Alec Lemon and Jarrod West. Better yet, physical RB Jerome Smith has emerged into a true workhorse by rushing for more than 100 yards in each of the last three games.

What To Watch Out For: Bridgewater is virtually unflappable, but that won't stop Syracuse from attempting to obstruct his line of sight. The quarterback's O-line has been spotty at times, ranking just 69th in the country in sacks allowed. The Orange has been able to generate traffic in the backfield both in the conventional way, with DE Brandon Sharpe, and by unleashing athletic linebackers Dyshawn Davis and Marquis Spruill. Syracuse must perforate the pocket every so often, because if Bridgewater is given too much time, he'll carve up the opposing secondary.

What Will Happen: If you play with fire, eventually you get burned. Syracuse will have a short fuse in the Carrier Dome this Saturday afternoon.

The Orange has been a much different team when playing in Upstate New York, going 3-1, with a one-point loss on opening day to 7-2 Northwestern. Plus, it has operated with much more efficiency of late, on offense and on defense. Syracuse is primed to play its best game of the season, handing Louisville its first loss of 2012. Bridgewater certainly won't go down without a fight, but it'll be the running of Smith against an overrated Cards D that'll help spearhead the upset. The motivated and energized Orange will remain a step ahead throughout, dramatically improving Marrone's future with the program.

CFN Prediction: Syracuse 33 … Louisville 28
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Louisville -2.5 O/U: 58
Must Watch Rating (5 – Skyfall, 1 – Wreck It Ralph): 2.5