My 2019 SU Football Preview / The Schedule: Duke, Louisville, Wake Forest | Syracusefan.com

My 2019 SU Football Preview / The Schedule: Duke, Louisville, Wake Forest

SWC75

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SU’s most important stats and the national ranking last season, (for comparison with the numbers in the schedule section for our opposition):
Offense: 40.2 points (11th) 464.8 yards (19th) 200.1 rushing (36th) 264.7 passing (31st) per game
Defense: 27.0 points (64th) 426.5 yards (88th) 162.5 rushing (63rd) 264.1 passing (116th) per game
Turnovers: +13 (5th) Starting Field Position: 35.0-27.4 = +7.6 (I couldn’t find a ranking for this)


Saturday November 16th TBA at DUKE Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham NC
TV: TBA RADIO: TK 99/105

Once upon a time Duke was a great power. Their Stadium is named after the great Wallace Wade who, after establishing Alabama as a national power in the 1920’s, moved on to Durham to do the same thing for the Blue Devils. In 16 seasons in Durham he won 110 games, lost 36 and tied 7. He had four top ten teams and went to three major bowl games. His successor, Bill Murray, (no, not that Bill Murray), went 91-51-9 in 15 seasons, with three visits to major bowls and a top ten team in 1960, when they won the Cotton Bowl. From 1931-1965, Duke went 227-98-17, a winning percentage of .698, 8th in the country.

Then from 1966-2007 they were 151-305-8, a winning percentage of .334, 104th in the country. During that time they found another, less expensive sport that could bring them national recognition. But this is the South and they got tired of having an embarrassingly bad football team. They hired David Cutcliffe, who had bene a successful coach at Mississippi before breaking with the administration there and who had a reputation as a “quarterback whisperer” who had worked with the Manning brothers, coaching Peyton as an assistant at Tennessee and Eli as the head coach at Ole Miss. Cutcliffe has at least treaded water at Duke with a 67-72 record but he’s had some peaks, including six bowls, half of which they’ve won. Duke had a ten win season of its own in 2013, winning the Coastal title. They came bedeviled d Temple 56-27 in the Independence Bowl.

They’ve lost Daniel Jones, Cutcliffe’s latest QB creation, to the Giants. His replacement will be Quentin Harris, who threw for 376 yards and 6 touchdowns in the two games he had to step in for Jones. But the receiving corps has lost its top four pass catchers. Duke does have its two top rushers back: Deon Jackson (847 yards at 5.3 a crack and 7TDs) and Brittain Brown.

But they return eight starters on defense, including 4 of 5 defensive backs and all four linemen. They had problems stopping the run last year, (105th in the country) but were very good against the pass. I’m sure Cutliffe and his two defensive coordinators will have something special waiting for Tommy DeVito and his friends. Nunes: “Duke didn’t defend a lot of passes, but they managed to cover well down the field to prevent those throws from ever getting made. They finished tied for sixth in the country with just four passing plays of 40 or more yards allowed on the year….I’m tempted to say this is a game that could jump up and bite even a great SU team, as Duke should be able to shut down the deep ball better than most Syracuse opponents. Don’t be surprised to see this one end up in the loss column, even if just by a hair.”

Austin Parker is a throw-back; a guy who does all the team’s kicking duties: kickoffs, placekicks and punts. He’s good at it with 17 of 21 field goals and 41.4 yards per punt. Deon Jackson is also a throw-back, a leading running back who returns kick-offs. He was decent, (21.8). They are looking for a new punt returner.

If we’re going great, we win this game. If not….

Duke’s injury report:
Duke Blue Devils Injuries - NCAAF Football - USA TODAY
Duke has been hit hard by injuries. As of 8/21, starting CB Mark Gilbert, second string QB Gunnar Holmberg, projected starting WR Jake Bobo, projected starting LB Brandon Hill, OT Jacob Rimmer and RB Mataeo Durant will all be out indefinitely. RB Marvin Hubbard III, (nope – not the son or grandson of the guy who played for Colgate and the Raiders), is expected to be able to play in the opener against Alabama.

Last year’s stats:
Offense: 29.4 points (64th) 405.7 yards (65th) 159.6 rushing (78th) 246.1 passing (53rd) per game
Defense: 27.4 points (72nd) 408.8 yards (77th) 209.3 rushing (105th) 199.5 passing (36th) per game
Turnovers: -7 (110th) Starting Field Position: 32.6-27.1 = +5.5


Saturday November 23rd TBA at LOUISVILLE in Cardinal Stadium, Louisville Kentucky
TV: TBA RADIO: TK 99/105

As bad as Florida State’s collapse was las season, it didn’t compare to what happened to Louisville. Their program was already deteriorating under scandal-ridden Bobby Petrino but the brilliance of Lamar Jackson had elevated them as only a great quarterback can do. Last year, without Jackson, the whole thing collapsed like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge:

Petrino was in a positon similar to that of “Professor Farquharson” and was fired.

Louisville, a national championship contender in 2016-17, fell to 2-10, with victories only over Indiana State and Western Kentucky and defeats with scores like 31-66, (Georgia Tech), 35-56, (Wake Forest), 16-77 (Clemson), 23-54 (Syracuse), 10-52, (NC State) and 10-56 (Kentucky). When you have a mess of this magnitude, the biggest problem is finding a coach who is willing to take command of your sunken ship, salvage it and then get out on the recruiting trail, looking to find players who might want to be part of a rebuilding project. Louisville convinced Scott Satterfield to come over from Appalachian State, where he went 51-24 in six years, winning the last three Sun Belt conference titles and winning four straight bowl games. Athlon: “He didn’t have much time to recruit so Satterfield focused his introductory months on attitude, effort and values”. That’s probably a good idea, considering the way last season ended. But you still need players.

Satterfield is more of a running coach than Petrino was. That might give Malik Cunningham the inside track on the QB positon over the well-named but not very efficient Jawon Pass. It tells you about the Louisville running game that their leading rusher was Cunningham with 497 yards. The top running back was Hassan Hall with only 303. The leading returning receivers are Dez Firtzpatrick, who caught 45 balls when Jackson was here, 31 last year and Seth Dawkins, who went from 42 to 25. “The offensive line has a lot of work to do. The Cards ranked 13th in the ACC in rushing and allowed 43 sacks, the most in the ACC.” They have just two returning starters but one of them is 6-2 355 Mekhi Becton.

Placekicker Blanton Creque was 10 for 12 on field goals. Too bad he only got those 12 attempts. Punter Mason King mirrored the programs’ decline, going from 43.9 yards per punt in 2017 to 40.6 in 2018. Rodjay Burn took a punt back for a touchdown and Hassan Hall returned a kickoff for a score.

We should see a Louisville team with a much improved attitude but not better players. And by this point in the season, they might be just playing out the string. Basically, Louisville is where we were a decade ago, when Doug Marrone took over for G-Rob.

Louisville injury report:
Louisville Cardinals Injuries - NCAAF Football - USA TODAY
As of 8/21, second string free safety TreSean Smith “has been suspended for an undetermined length of time”. There are no reported injuries.

Last year’s stats:
Offense: 19.8 points (122nd) 352.6 yards (109th) 141.5 rushing (102nd) 211.1 passing (89th) per game
Defense: 44.1 points (128th) 483.5 yards (122nd) 277.3 rushing (127th) 206.3 passing (122nd) per game
Turnovers: -12 (125th) Starting Field Position: 27.5-32.3 = -4.8


Saturday, November 30th TBA vs. WAKE FOREST at the Dome
TV: TBA RADIO: TK 99/105

Dave Clawson was Dino Baber’s predecessor at Bowling Green, which means he had a two year head start in rebuilding Wake Forest over Dino’s efforts at Syracuse. It showed in Dino’s first two years. We lost to them 9-28, playing on the edge of a Hurricane in Winston-Salem in 2016. We thought we had them in the Dome in 2017, looking unstoppable in a 38-24 first half. We were very stoppable in the second half they weren’t: we lost 43-64. But last year they had already peaked and we were on the way up and we beat them on a dry field in W-S 41-24. But they still managed to go 7-6 and win a bowl game.

They’ve had some more personnel losses: Greg Dortch, who caught 89 passes of 8 scores and Alex Bachman who caught 37 for 6 scores; second leading rusher Matt Colburn, who ran for 759 yards; three starting offensive linemen who had 112 starts between them; two defensive linemen with a total of 52 starts and DB Cameron Glenn, who had 98 tackles and second team all-ACC. Linebacker D. J. Taylor, already lost for the season with an injury. But Clawson is defiant: “We’re not winning by accident. We have good players.”

Quarterbacks Sam Hartman and Jamie Newman had 25TDs and 14 interceptions between them and ran for 522 yards and 6 TDs. Newman, at 6-4 235, is a load when he decides to pull it down and go. Cade Carney, (5-11 215) is another load that ran for 1,005 yards at 5.3 yards a pop and scored 8 TDs, (but see the injury report, below). Christian Beal-Smith had runs of 52 and 42 yards as a back-up. Sage Surratt caught 41 balls and Scottie Washington caught 45 two years ago and 20 last year before being hurt. They get three year starter Justin Herron back at OT after he was injured in the opener last year. DE Carlos Basham had 11 TFLs. Linebacker Justin Strnad, (yup, that’s how you spell it), had 105 tackles. Athlon: “Former touted recruits Chase Monroe and Jeff Burley are now third year sophomores who haven’t played because of injuries.” Cornerback Essang Bassey “is one of the ACC’s best”. True freshman Nasir Green “came on strong” at safety last year.

They can match us in the kicking game with place kicker Nick Sciba, who hit 19 of 22 FG and four year punter Dom Maggio, (were his parents Red Sox fans?). But they’ll miss Dortch as a kick returner, although Beal-Smith may make a good replacement.

Per Athlon, Clawson’s 2019 recruiting class includes “three of the five top rated prospects in school history”. Per their list, that would be wide receivers Donavon Greene, Nolan Groulx and defensive end Shamar McCollum. The “opposing coaches on Clawson: “They do a great job of bothering you with that offense. They have a ton of speed and they can’t seem to go fast enough. They’re going to use all four downs on you: they go for it when most coaches wouldn’t. The result is that they make you start pressing more when you’re on offense and then the mistakes start.”

That sounds like what we are trying to do. They are a Liberty with more talent. It used to be said in describing the competitiveness of the NFL that “there are no Wake Forests in the NFL”. No more. Wake Forest isn’t ‘Wake Forest’ any more. A lot will depend on what the stakes are for these two teams when they meet in game 12 and how well the teams have been playing down the stretch.

Wake Forest injury report:
Wake Forest Demon Deacons Injuries - NCAAF Football - USA TODAY
As of 8/21, LB DJ Taylor will be out for the season. RB Cade Carney’s status for the opener against Utah State is unclear. WR Scotty Washington is expected to play in that game.

Last year’s stats:
Offense: 32.8 points (35th) 449.8 yards (28th) 213.7 rushing (26th) 236.1 passing (65th) per game
Defense: 33.3 points (101st) 458.4 yards (116th) 192.5 rushing (93rd) 266.1 passing (117th) per game
Turnovers: -3 (85th) Starting Field Position: 28.1-29.0 = -0.9


Summary: We will probably lose to Clemson but might be favored in every other game. I’m encouraged by the fact that we were very close to going 12-1 last year: we just needed to hold on two fourth down plays against Clemson and Pittsburgh. We could run the table after the Clemson game this year. I think this will be a very good Syracuse team with a great opportunity due to the schedule. If we can continue to be successful and keep the momentum of the program going, after a couple more good recruiting years, we might have a great team then. But by then Florida State might be back to being Florida State, Louisville back to Louisville, North Carolina State back to being North Carolina State and Clemson will still be Clemson. Now might be the time to reach for greatness. But it will take more than wax wings to get there.
 

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