As we countdown to kickoff in September, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each week over the summer. SU will begin its 2016 ACC schedule when it hosts Louisville on Sept. 9.
RISING POWER: In recent memory, the ACC Atlantic Division has been dominated by two teams: Florida State and Clemson. But this season, Louisville is angling to crash the two-team party. Its ACC Coastal opponents consist of Duke and Virginia, and its non-conference schedule of Charlotte, Marshall, Kentucky and Houston—all winnable games. A September 17 date with Florida State at home could be the key game to a double-digit win season, especially with 16 returning starters.
WHO TO WATCH FOR: When we did our annual team-by-team preview last summer, we noted that Louisville was allowing all five of its scholarship quarterbacks to compete for the starting position. That is not the case this summer, with true sophomore Lamar Jackson cementing himself as the starter. In his rookie season, he threw for 1840 yards and 12 touchdowns, and ran for 960 more on the ground with 11 touchdowns. Jackson enters the season as one of the top quarterbacks in the ACC. Jackson will be throwing to Jamari Staples, who emerged as the Cardinals’ best deep threat, hauling down a remarkable 17.2 yards per catch to go with three touchdowns. On defense, linebackers Devonte Fields and Keith Kelsey will lead a stingy defense that allowed just 332.8 yards per game last season, 18th in the NCAA.
PREDICTION: Louisville gained an unsightly 579 yards last season against SU’s beleaguered defense to rout the Orange, 41-17, in 2015. While the margin shouldn’t be as pronounced this year, the result will be the same. LOUISVILLE 35, SYRACUSE 17.