Louisville Cardinals at Syracuse Orange, Friday Sept. 9, 8 p.m. ET
Conference play in the ACC gets off to an oddly early start this year as Louisville and Syracuse clash on Friday night. It's actually the second ACC game following one in Dublin last weekend. Louisville in particular has really flipped their schedule this year - their last two games are out of conference. It's a matchup that would be more compelling right now on a basketball court than the gridiron.
These two teams have different priorities. For Louisville, it's all about trying to prove that the ACC is actually a three-team league instead of just a personal playground for Clemson and Florida State. For Syracuse, it's about adapting to a new coaching staff and trying to climb out of the giant funk the program has been in for too long. The Orange have won only seven games combined over the last two years, and in many ways that win total is flattering. So, one team absolutely must win this game, and the other could really use a win to kickstart their rebuild.
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Louisville at Syracuse Betting Storylines
Lamar Jackson was as good as a football player can be last week. Louisville's sophomore QB passed for six touchdowns and ran for two more against Louisville last week - in the first half. It was an incredible tour de force performance, albeit against a woefully-outmatched opponent. Now we have to see if he can do something similar against a less-outmatched-but-still-clearly-inferior foe. We know he won't get the same kind of video game numbers - that just can't happen every week. What will be interesting, though, is if he looks as composed and efficient this week or if he and the team around him rest on their success a little. Syracuse will try a few things to disrupt the Cardinals offensively, but the focus for me is far less on that and more on the mental state and the hunger this offense exhibits.
The Louisville offense also has to operate in a difficult environment. The dome should be full for this one, and it can get extremely loud in there. The fans have been long beaten down at Syracuse, but they should be excited by this new staff and their first win, and they will be fired up for a big game against a high-level, ranked opponent. That's another factor to consider when determining what Jackson and company will do here.
Dino Babers was a truly excellent hire for Syracuse. He did remarkable things in just two years at Bowling Green, and he made Jimmy Garoppolo into a draftable player and current Patriots starter while at Eastern Illinois before that. He plays a high-tempo offense. There will inevitably be some growing pains as Syracuse embraces that, but the first game was surprisingly competent - they passed for 437 yards and completed a stunning 40 of 46 passes. Now, there is a giant asterisk beside those numbers because it was only against Colgate, which means that scrimmages during practice are more competitive than that opener, but it was still a good sign of progress. Babers is going to win at Syracuse, but this could be a tough spot for him. Louisville rushes the passer well, so the quarterbacks aren't likely to be nearly as accurate this time around. The Orange really struggled to run against Colgate and are going to find it dramatically tougher against a strong Louisville front. Babers will be creative, and he'll find a way to gain some yards, but it's tough to expect a repeat of last week's numbers.
Louisville at Syracuse Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Louisville favored by two touchdowns, and that has since drifted slightly to 14.5. About four in five bets to date have been on the Cardinals, so it is not surprising to see the number lift off of the key number of 14. The total opened as low as 64 but has moved consistently upward and is widely at 68 as I write.
The Cardinals are a gaudy 27-11 ATS in their last 38 road games. Things aren't all rosy, though. They are just 1-5 ATS in their last six conference games. They also haven't carried momentum forward well at all - they are just 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games following a game in which they scored 40 or more points. The Orange have covered their last four games overall and their last five at home. They are 5-1 ATS in their last six against teams with winning records. They are 6-2 ATS in their last eight conference games. Louisville is 4-1 ATS in the last five matchups between these teams, including last year where they covered handily despite giving up 17 points.
Louisville at Syracuse Predictions and Picks
While I respect the Orange and where they are headed, this isn't a tough game to call. Louisville is going to be able to score points, and their defensive strengths are almost perfectly designed to frustrate Syracuse. The Orange will score some, but not nearly enough to cover this spread. The Cardinals will open ACC play by covering this spread comfortably.
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