Entering the 2019 season, Syracuse was projected to be one of the best teams in the ACC. How Louisville football turned the tables on the Orange.
2019 was supposed to be Syracuse football’s year to take a quantum leap forward in the world of ACC football expectations. It was also supposed to be a rebuilding “year zero” type of season for Scott Satterfield and the Louisville football program.
Though the Orange lost long-time starting quarterback Eric Dungey, his replacement Tommy DeVito was pegged to be the next big thing in upstate New York.
The Orange returned the majority of its defense and bolstered its rushing attack by adding a strong recruiting class in 2019.
To say that expectations were high coming off of a 10-win season under fourth-year head coach Dino Babers would be an understatement. But Syracuse’s expectations seemed far too wild in retrospect now that the reality of a 12-game ACC season has hit.
The Orange began the season unimpressively with a sloppy 24-0 win over Liberty before their absolute dismantling at the hands of a Maryland squad who is unlikely to make a bowl game.
Entering conference play, the Orange were trounced by Clemson and have since taken four straight losses to NC State, Pitt, Florida State, and Boston College. Cuse finally broke through with a blowout win over Duke last week, but overall, they are allowing over 31 points per game to conference foes while failing to get things going on offense far too much.
Prior to the 2019 season, most had this pegged as a loss for the Cardinals. Four out of five of BRL’s contributors and site experts chose Syracuse to win by double digits, while one picked Louisville in a surprising upset.
10 games into the season, one could surmise that the more surprising outcome would be a Louisville loss. But how does that happen?
Syracuse was on the precipice of one of its greatest seasons ever. There was much discussion of the Orange hosting defending national champion Clemson for a game with college football playoff implications prior to the season. Now, the Orange will have to win their final two games against Louisville and Wake to become bowl eligible.
Maybe it starts with culture. Louisville was a team with plenty of power five talent, but zero culture in 2018. The Cards left the Carrier Dome with a 54-23 loss, and that was one of their least lopsided defeats on the back end of the season.
Meanwhile, under Babers, most assumed the up-and-coming coach- once considered for the Louisville vacancy this offseason- would keep things rolling in 2019.
That couldn’t be further from the case.
But what has set the Orange back so much this season? To start, injuries have plagued them across the board. Syracuse is without three presumed starters along the offensive line and they have been decimated by injuries on defense all season.
Still, after their abysmal start, it feels like if Syracuse comes out and gets knocked around early they lay down a bit as the game progresses.
“I have patience,” Babers said after a loss to Florida State. “But my patience only goes so far. We need to work harder.”
Not putting in the work sounds like a theme that saw Petrino fired in 2018 after the Cards’ drubbing to Syracuse, but it could not be further from the truth this season.
Louisville isn’t firing on all cylinders all of the time, as evidenced for four quarters against Miami and its lackadaisical start at NC State. Still, one could never at any point in the season pinpoint a time when Louisville has not been locked in and sticking to their gameplan.
Coming off of a two-win season, it could be easy for Louisville football to lose its focus, but it is a testament to the new coaching staff that the Cardinals could still wind up in a major bowl to conclude a season that has been a miraculous turn-around. A stark contrast to the opponent that will line up against Scott Satterfield’s squad on Saturday.