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Louisville coach Bobby Petrino on keeping players motivated during a frustrating season and a 77-16 blowout at Clemson
Sam Upshaw Jr., Louisville Courier Journal

When the College Football Playoff committee announced its rankings Tuesday, all four of the Louisville’s November opponents landed in the top 15.

Louisville is crumbling, and things might well get worse Friday night.

The Cards’ visit to No. 13 Syracuse has the makings of an ugly one. Louisville is 2-7 and on a six-game losing streak. The Orange are playing their best football, having scored at least 40 points in three straight games, all wins.

Syracuse runs a no-huddle offense, the kind that Boston College used to score 38 on this Louisville team and Wake Forest used to score 56. Boston College runs a play every 22.4 seconds, Wake Forest every 19.7. Syracuse snaps the ball every 22 seconds.

“They’re going to play as fast as anyone that we’ve went against,” Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. “(Quarterback) Eric Dungey knows how to execute that offense and work it. So we’ve got to be able to keep it in front of us, not give up the great, big, explosive plays.”

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Dungey, Syracuse’s fourth-year starter, is completing 61.2 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns against just four interceptions. He’s already up to a career-high 628 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Most importantly for Syracuse, he’s healthy after missing the final three games of each of his first three seasons. He didn’t play against Louisville last year and left early with a head injury in 2015.

Syracuse is eighth in the Football Bowl Subdivision in scoring with 43.3 points per game, going against a Louisville defense that ranks 125th in scoring defense at 40.8 points allowed per game.

In a 77-16 blowout Saturday, Clemson needed just 22:29 on offense to score 77 points. The Orange are capable of the same crooked numbers.

It will take Louisville’s best game to keep the score close, which is a stunning about-face. The Cards have owned Syracuse lately. Their last trip to the Carrier Dome in 2016 featured Lamar Jackson’s hurdle in a 62-28 victory. They trounced the Orange again last season, 56-10.

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Petrino is 7-0 against Syracuse as a head coach, all by double digits and the last four by an average of 31.5 points. That may be Louisville’s best reason to believe.

Coach Dino Babers is in his third season of running the no-huddle offense at Syracuse, and his Orange have won some high-scoring games. Already this season, they have beaten North Carolina 40-37 and NC State 51-41.

Babers pointed out Wednesday on the ACC coaches’ teleconference that opponents respond to that style either by controlling the clock to keep the ball away from the Syracuse offense or by matching them in style and trying to win a shootout.

“It really depends on whether they really respect what you’re doing or they really think you’re capable of doing what you’re doing,” Babers said. “That comes back to how the other guys see whether you can operate efficiently at that level, at a high level, or whether they feel you cannot operate efficiently at a high level.”

Louisville ripped the Orange in a shootout in 2016. Petrino’s team led 35-21 at halftime and 42-28 after the third quarter, and then the offense kept rolling for 20 more points in the fourth. That same program resorted to ball control on Saturday, chewing up 21:16 of the first half on offense.

The Cards are 21-point underdogs Friday. If they play conservative again, it may be hard to win the game. If they don’t, they may find themselves in another rout.

Jake Lourim: 502-582-4168; jlourim@courierjournal.com; Twitter: @jakelourim. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal.com/jakel.

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Louisville at No. 13 Syracuse
When: 7 p.m. Friday. Where: Syracuse, N.Y.
TV: ESPN2 Radio: WKRD-790