Friday night ACC games are back! Louisville travels to Syracuse on Friday night (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) for the first weeknight conference tilt of the season. It's the ACC debut for Syracuse coach Dino Babers and a national stage for Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, who lit up Charlotte last week with eight first-half touchdowns.
"I'm not even sure I've got eight touchdowns in my career," Babers joked this week. "He did eight touchdowns in one game, and the way he did it, he's just an outstanding player."
Between Jackson's dynamic athleticism and Syracuse's up-tempo offense, there should be no shortage of fireworks. Now, let's get into the storylines:
Louisville storyline: One of the frustrating wrinkles of game preparation can be an opponent under new leadership. Coaches can look at old tape from that coach's previous stops, but, particularly in a conference rivalry, there's an uneasiness going into that first meeting.
Louisville coach Bobby Petrino has not only watched Dino Babers' Bowling Green teams but Syracuse's week-opening win against Colgate and he's concerned about one thing: tempo. Babers' up-tempo offensive attack both stretches and stresses opposing defenses, using every yard of space as an opportunity for a potential explosive play. Limiting those explosive plays and getting off the field are a big key to eliminating the offensive edge, so Petrino is taking every measure necessary, including double-checking that the officials follow all the rules to the letter of the law.
"The chains have to be set," Petrino said this week on the coaches' teleconference. "They've got to let the chains get down and be set before they can snap the ball again, and there were a couple times in that game where they didn't get set. We have talked to the conference office, and that's part of the officials' responsibility to make sure that the chains are set before they let the ball be snapped."
To prepare for Syracuse, Louisville's No. 2 offense has been snapping the ball every 16 seconds in practice. The good news is that while the Orange have to prepare for something unique as well this week: Lamar Action Jackson.
Syracuse storyline: When the Carrier Dome gets loud on a Friday night, Syracuse is only a few good bounces away from pulling an upset. Five years ago, it was another former Big East team, West Virginia, that entered the Dome on a Friday night to test its nationally ranked status on national television. Nothing went right for Dana Holgorsen and the Mountaineers that night; an evening that concluded with Orange players climbing into the stands to celebrate the upset with the 45,000+ in attendance.
Dino Babers and Syracuse, with their exciting style and unique home-field advantage, will get someone in the Carrier Dome. It might not be Louisville, but there's going to be a game where one of the ACC powers stumbles out of the gate and suddenly finds itself in a 14-0 deficit.
Pick: This seems like the kind of game where Bobby Petrino just wants to get out of New York with a win and get an extra day to prepare for next week. It's going to be stressful for Cards fan -- memories of old Big East upsets and Lamar Jackson's difference-making against Charlotte is minimized playing against a Power Five defense -- but he'll still be the difference in a 10-point Cardinals' win. Pick: Syracuse +14.5