What do you call a team that is 1-1 in conference play and 3-4 overall in the Big East?
A legitimate conference and BCS contender.
That is where Louisville finds itself with five games left in the season. The Cardinals can take another huge step toward strengthening its position when it hosts Syracuse this Saturday for a noon game.
“What’s great about the Big East is there’s no playoffs, and there is no game there at the end,” Louisville head coach Charlie Strong said during his weekly press conference. “Each week, we have to be prepared to play. It’s wide open.”
But to fully take advantage of its situation, the Cardinals will have to win back-to-back conference games for the first time since the 2006 season.
They will try to do so against a Syracuse team that just knocked off then-No. 11 West Virginia in a 49-23 rout.
“Syracuse is an outstanding team,” Strong said. “Ryan (Nassib), does a good job of just managing the offense. Defensively, they come with a lot of pressure, similar to us.”
Louisville comes into the game with some momentum of its own. The Cardinals halted a three game losing streak by knocking off the surprising Rutgers Scarlet Knights 16-14 on Friday behind 108 rushing yards from sophomore Jeremy Wright.
Wright became the first player to top 100 yards this season for Louisville.
Louisville’s defense also accounted for three interceptions. The first two halted the Scarlet Knights’ first two drives, while Dexter Heyman’s pick with 1:41 left in the game sealed the win.
“Our team needs to play with confidence and they need to play with trust,” Strong said. “Guys need to start believing in one another. If we can get that accomplished, we have a chance to build on this win.”
But the elation of the win was quickly tempered by the news that cornerback Anthony Conner broke his neck when his head collided with Rutgers receiver Mohamed Sanu’s right knee in the second quarter.
Conner had successful surgery on Monday.
Although his injury is considered career-ending, his prognosis for a recovery are reported to be excellent.
“We are hoping for a good recovery,” Strong said. “He will have a good recovery. It is just a matter of him getting back on track.”