Bowls in background as Cards try to finish strong

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- With Louisville having achieved postseason eligibilty, there are likely to be several representatives of various bowls on hand for the first time to get a look at the Cardinals during their game against Syracuse Saturday in Cardinal Stadium (4 p.m., ACC Net).

But their potential bowl destination is the last thing UofL coach Scott Satterfield and his staff want their players to be thinking about.

There's too much left on the table, such as securing the best bowl berth possible and becoming the seventh Louisville team in the last eight seasons to win eight games or more.

Then there's the opportunity to send UofL's seniors out on a high note in their final home game and build more momentum for their showdown with Kentucky the following Saturday.

"You always want to get to that six-win plateau, that's honestly a goal of every team in college football when you start out playing," Satterfield said. "Particularly for us, coming off what happened last year. But we're not finished yet. There is still a lot of ball left ahead and we want to win these last two games and be headed in the right direction going into the postseason."

At plus-4 already, UofL (6-4, 4-3) is the most improved Power Five program in the country at this point, eclipsing second-place Oregon at plus-3 and with a legitimate shot to make it plus-6 with wins against Syracuse and Kentucky.

The Cards have already successfully cashed four paybacks and have a chance to make it five against the Orange, which clobbered them 54-23 last season. A year ago, UofL lost to Boston College, Wake Forest, Virginia and North Carolina State by a combined 105 points. This season, they own victories over all four of those teams.

"It's a great feeling," UofL offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford said this week. "It's good for our guys to see all their hard work paying off. We never talked about bowls, it was just the daily grind.

"So it's awesome, fun to be around. We've still got a lot to play for these last two games. This game (Syracuse) is going to be a special feeling for some seniors who have been through a lot in the program and we need to make sure we play our hearts out for these guys."

While there are 23 seniors on Louisville's roster, only 10 have cracked the depth chart and just five are starters -- center T.J. McCoy, wide receiver Seth Dawkins, defensive end Amonte Caban, nose tackle G.G. Robinson and free safety Khane Pass.

Satterfield was asked if he was concerned about a possible letdown against Syracuse in the wake of the emotional 34-20 comeback win at NC State that assured a bowl trip and prompted a wild locker room celebration.

"It doesn't matter, win or lose, you put it to bed on Sunday," Satterfield said. "Celebrating is very shortlived, that's just the way it is for college football and I like that. I like that you can put those games to bed, then just move into the next week."

UofL's and Syracuse's seasons have taken opposite trajectories. While the Cards have exceeded expectations, the Orange have been disappointing after starting the preseason ranked No. 22.

Syracuse snapped a four-game losing streak and won its first ACC game last week by walloping Duke 49-6. Their other victories have come against Liberty, Western Michigan and Holy Cross. Still, Satterfield said he can see why the Orange was well-regarded entering the season.

"If you didn't know anything about their record or stats or anything, when you watch the film they look pretty good to me," Satterfield said. "We know they will be riding a high coming in here. They are sitting there with four wins trying to be bowl eligible, so we know we will get their best shot."

The Cuse's biggest offensive weapons are quarterback Tommy DeVito, who has thrown 169 passes without an interception, for 2,180 yards and 17 touchdowns; wideout Trishton Jackson, who has nine receptions for 30 or more yards and 53 catches for 848 yards and nine TDs overall; and running back Moe Neal, who is fifth on the school's all-time rushing list.

But the Orange's offfensive line has struggled protecting DeVito. Syracuse is next-to-last in the FBS in sacks allowed with 46, or nearly five per game. UofL, though, is averaging just two sacks per game. Syracuse is also No. 109 in red zone offense.

Syracuse coach Dino Babers says his biggest worry against the Cards is, naturally, their big-play offense, featuring 1,000-yard rusher Javian Hawkins and the dual threat of quarterback Micale Cunningham.

UofL's average of 17.1 yards per completion leads the nation for teams with over 150 attempts and the Cards have had 16 completions of 40 or more yards.

“The offense that we’re about to play is a lot better than the offense we just played,” SU head coach Dino Babers said. “They’ve got some cats and they can do some things. They are lightning fast, lightning fast. (If) they get out in space, there’s going to be trouble.”

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