The Syracuse Orange and No. 11-ranked Louisville Cardinals will face off Saturday (Noon ET on ABC) in a Big East Conference football game at the Carrier Dome. The showdown will be the eighth and final meeting between the pair as Big East members, as Syracuse (4-5, 3-2 Big East) will join the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.
Overall, this will be the 12th all-time contest between SU and Louisville (9-0, 4-0), which holds a 6-5 record in the series including a three-game winning streak.
SU's losing streak to Louisville will be a tough one to snap, as the Cardinals remain one of the six unbeaten teams in the country and are well positioned to earn the conference's BCS bowl berth.
Louisville head coach Charlie Strong has never lost to the Orange, who's last victory over the Cardinals came in 2008 when the outcome was 28-21 at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone is 0-3 against Louisville.
According to the oddsmakers, Louisville will enter the game as 3-point favorites.
What the coaches are saying
Syracuse's Doug Marrone:
"We have an excellent football team come in," Marrone said Monday during his weekly Big East teleconference. "This is the best football team that we will have played so far, and even with the tough out-of-conference schedule, the quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, is the toughest quarterback we will face so far this season.
"We're going to have to play a near perfect game to put us in a position to even beat them."
Louisville's Charlie Strong:
"Syracuse is an extremely talented football team if you look at their offense, which is No. 1 in the conference in total offense," Strong said Monday. "Quarterback (Ryan Nassib) is an outstanding player, their running back (Jerome Smith) runs hard, but they're a very well coached team. Doug has done a very good job with that football team, so its going to be a good road test for us."
Syracuse is led by three-year starter, Nassib, who has 34 career starts and ranks 11th nationally in passing yards (2,773) and total offense (318.3 yards per game).
The 6'3, 227-pound senior has already surpassed his own school record, set last year, of total passing yards in a season.
Nassib is just 13 completions away from setting the Big East's all-time mark, which is currently held by former Rutgers Scarlet Knights quarterback Ryan Hart (735).
Meanwhile, Louisville is led by signal caller Teddy Bridgewater. The 6'3, 220-pound sophomore tossed a career-best five touchdown passes in the victory over Temple. This season, Bridgewater has thrown at least one touchdown pass in eight straight games and surpassed the 300-yard passing mark four times.
In Big East play, Bridgewater has completed 67-percent of his passes, thrown for more than 1,300 yards (325.0 yards per game) and 10 touchdowns with one interception.
Currently, Bridgewater is the leading candidate to win the Big East Player of the Year award.
"I just think he's really gotten a lot better," Marrone said about last season's Big East Rookie of the Year. "He can extend plays and still keep his eyes down field, he can move around in the pocket, he can make all the throws.
"I think he has excellent touch -- putting it into tight windows. I think he has very good control and grasp about what's going on and he's a play-maker. It seems the tougher the situation gets for him the more calm and relax he is."
Statistically, Syracuse enters the game with the best offense in the conference. The Orange average a league-best 463.8 yards per game, including 308.1 through the air and 155.7 on the ground.
The Orange have two of the top three wide receivers in the league with seniors Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales.
Sales (5.5) and Lemon (5.6) are second and third, respectively, in the Big East in receptions per game. Sales is second in the league in yards (80.2) and Lemon is third (71.1).
In addition to the pair of seniors, a common target of Nassib is junior Jarrod West, who has 37 catches for 523 yards and two touchdowns.
On the ground, junior tailback Jerome Smith has emerged as the No. 1 option. Smith has averaged more than 100 yards in the last three games.
Meanwhile, in Louisville's last two games the Cardinals have averaged 516.0 yards of total offense and 39.5 points per game.
The Cardinals offense is predicated on its big-play ability. Already this season, Louisville has 41 rushing and passing plays of over 20 yards. Wide receiver DeVante Paker is a big part of that. The sophomore owns a team-high 10 receptions of 20 or more yards.
Louisville is also very good in the red zone where its converted 38-of-39 opportunities (30 for touchdowns), a percentage of 97-percent which is tops in the nation.
Defensively, the Cardinals are led by junior safety Hakeem Smith. The two-time All-Conference honoree has started in all nine of Louisville games this season and will be asked to slow down the Orange's passing attack.
To do so, Louisville will need to be better on third-down situations. Overall, the Cardinals are allowing their opponent's to convert 41.6-percent of its third down opportunities, a mark that ranks 76th in the country.
What the defense is good at is forcing turnovers. This season, Louisville has a turnover margin of plus-9. That aspect could be huge in the overall outcome of the game considering SU is 4-0 when they have had fewer, or the same number of turnovers as its opponent and are 0-5 when they have finished with more turnovers than its opponent.
Statistically, Syracuse's defense is one of the worst in the league allowing 369.4 yards per game and 26.1 points per game.