Welcome to a new series on the Fizz, where every week this football season we’ll take a deep dive into SU’s opponent and introduce you to some names to know.
Three days from now, Syracuse will open its season against Atlantic division foe Louisville. This will be the first matchup in CNY between the Orange and Cardinals since 2018, and Dino Babers is probably saying “good riddance”. Each of the past three years the two teams have met in Kentucky, and each of the past three years Louisville has won by 20 or more points.
Last season’s iteration of Louisville was very streaky. After a season-opening loss, the Cardinals rattled off three straight wins before losing two straight by a combined four points. At 3-3, Louisville then beat Boston College before losing to NC State and Clemson. That set up a showdown with Syracuse. The Cardinals left no doubt, blasting the Orange 41-3 before picking up a win over Duke the next weekend to earn bowl eligibility. It was all downhill from there. Louisville lost to Kentucky in the regular season finale before falling to Army in the Servpro First Responder Bowl. But, the Cardinals were able to accomplish what Syracuse couldn’t. They made a bowl game.
Head Coach Scott Satterfield
Ever since Satterfield took over the reigns to the program, the energy has shifted tremendously. The North Carolina native took over after a 2-10 2018 season. Satterfield has since taken Louisville to a pair of bowl games in three years, including a victory in the 2019 Music City Bowl. He’s also outcoached Babers to a tea in all three meetings between the two.
QB Malik Cunningham
Orange LB Mikel Jones said he didn’t see facing Cunningham “as much of a challenge” at the ACC kickoff. Let’s hope he’s not eating those words after 60 minutes, because the Alabama native has owned Syracuse over the past three years. In three wins, Cunningham has registered over 750 total yards along with 13 touchdowns. Not so much of a challenge, eh? He also topped 1,000 rushing yards last season. As a quarterback. Dual-threat if there ever was such a thing.
RB Jalen Mitchell
For as dominant as Cunningham is on the ground, Mitchell is still a force to be reckoned with. The Florida native topped 60 yards on the ground in six games, including a 100+ yard effort against Syracuse. Mitchell eclipsed 700 yards on the season. For second place on the team, that isn’t too shabby. He also had over 100 receiving yards. Simply put, Mitchell is an invaluable weapon for Cunningham and the offense.
LB Yasir Abdullah
Flipping to the defensive side of the ball, if Abdullah gets past the offensive line… look out. A second-team All ACC member, the Florida native had 17.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks, respectively good for 12th and 19th nationally. Syracuse had no answers for him last year as he recorded nine tackles and two sacks. Abdullah is the definition of a havoc wreaker on the defensive end, and he has to be priority #1 for Mike Schmidt’s unit.
DB Kei’Trel Clark
Following a season-ending ACL tear on October 30, Clark is ready to go for this Saturday. Over the course of seven full games and part of an eighth, the Virginia native had 40 tackles, a team-leading nine pass breakups, three interceptions, and 3.5 tackles for loss. Imagine those numbers over the course of a full season. SU’s receiving corps is full of questions, and going up against a top-notch defensive back like Clark is only going to make life tougher.
With just three more days of waiting, there’s what you need to know about Louisville. It’s quite the challenge for Babers and company, only time will tell how the Orange handle it.