Syracuse Football: Going in-depth on No. 16 ‘Cuse hosting Notre Dame

Syracuse football (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Syracuse football (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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On Saturday afternoon, our 16th-ranked Syracuse football takes to the painted grass to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in what is likely to be another monumental, sellout crowd.

This is a series that has been mostly dominated by Notre Dame, with the Irish winning 7 of the 10 all-time matchups. However, the last matchup in the, then, Carrier Dome was won by Syracuse football in a dominant fashion, 38-12.

We’re hoping for a similar result tomorrow. But first, here are some key storylines.

Previewing and making a prediction as No. 16 Syracuse football hosts Notre Dame.

How have these two teams performed this season?

Syracuse football comes into this game with a 6-1 record and 3-1 against conference opponents. The Orange have defeated Louisville (31-7), at UConn (48-14), Purdue (32-29), Virginia (22-20), Wagner (59-0), and NC State, which was ranked 15th at the time (24-9).

The Orange fell in a close game against the #5 Clemson Tigers on the road 27-21. Overall, I would say Syracuse football has performed very well, overachieving based on the preseason expectations. Some games have been ugly, but they’ve been pulling them out. They very well should have beat Clemson had they been able to score even once in the second half and at the very least avoid costly penalties.

The overall feeling is negative that we lost such a winnable game, but optimistic that we had a chance to win the game. The Irish, meanwhile, come into this game 4-3. The Irish have defeated California (24-17), at North Carolina (45-32), BYU, which was ranked 16th at the time (28-20), and UNLV (44-21). They have lost at #2 Ohio State in a competitive, low-scoring game 21-10.

But they have two head-scratching losses vs Marshall and Stanford. Both of these games were at home. That can be chalked up to a first-year head coach, and perhaps some shortcomings at the offensive coordinator position as it appears the team lacks a true identity on offense.

This is without a doubt a better football team than their record states. They have some quality wins against North Carolina, whose only loss is currently to this Notre Dame team, and BYU. BYU has been a good team all year and was ranked at the time Notre Dame beat them. Their offense has been on the back of a milk carton in head-scratching losses vs Stanford and Marshall.

Who are the leaders for the Irish offensively?

The Irish are led by quarterback Drew Pyne, who was ushered into action due to an injury to starting QB Tyler Buchner, who was hurt during the Marshall game. Just by looking at the stats, it seems Pyne has done a fine job. He has completed 93-of-146 passes, which is good for a 63.7% completion percentage.

He has thrown for 12 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. His favorite target is tight end Michael Mayer. Mayer has 21 more receptions than the second-leading receiver, who is Lorenzo Styles. He is also the only Irish receiver with multiple receiving touchdowns. Mayer has 6 while several other Irish receivers have just one.

This is similar to the Syracuse football passing game, which itself has one primary target in Oronde Gadsden II. As far as the running game goes, Notre Dame has three running backs with significant carries. Their leading rusher is Audric Estime, who has 79 carries for 435 yards and 6 TDs. The second leading rusher is Logan Diggs with 75 carries for 346 yards and no TDs, and the third is Chris Tyree with 70 carries for 299 yards and 2 TDs.

This means that Notre Dame has a fresh rotation of running backs they use and the Orange defensive line needs to be ready to throw punches for four quarters against fresh healthy legs running the ball.

Who are the leaders for the Irish defensively?

A player for Notre Dame who jumps off the page is Isaiah Foskey on the defensive line, who has 28 total tackles on the season and 6 sacks, which leads the Irish defense by a long shot. Notre Dame also has 3 studs at the linebacker position.

The two leading tacklers for Notre Dame are J.D. Bertrand at linebacker with 43 total tackles and Jack Kiser, who also plays linebacker racking up 35 tackles. Marist Liufau (also a linebacker) has 19 tackles. Overall, there are several standouts on this Notre Dame defense and we could probably name the entire 11-man lineup. This is a defense that is ranked 30th but could easily be ranked higher as they have played some difficult competition.

How do the Orange and the Irish match up?

Coming into this game, the Orange have the 13th ranked defense in America giving up just 294.7 yards per game with the Irish coming in at 31st and surrendering 341.4 yards per game. The Orange are No. 10 in pass defense allowing only 171.4 passing yards per game while the Irish come in at the 35th spot allowing 202 passing yards per game. Both teams have weaker rush defenses than pass defenses.

Syracuse football isn’t exactly poor in the run-stopping department, but the pass defense is still much better. The Orange are allowing 123.3 rush yards per game, which is good for 38th in the country. The Irish have been a little worse at stopping the run, allowing 139.4 rushing yards per game to opposing teams, which is good for 62nd in the country.

Offensively, Syracuse football has been disappointing as far as running the ball goes considering they have one of the best running backs in college football in Sean Tucker. Syracuse comes in at 45th in the nation running the football with 179.3 rushing yards per game. Notre Dame comes in two spots below Syracuse football at 47th with 178.1 rushing yards per game with the three-headed monster at running back. Syracuse football comes in at 73rd in passing offense, gaining 232.1 yards per game through the air.

Somehow, Notre Dame is ranked below Syracuse with the 100th-ranked passing offense with 207.1 yards per game. Long story short, neither of these two offenses is lighting the world on fire and the defense is the strength of both teams.

My assessment and prediction 

As a Syracuse fan, my heart is obviously going to tell me to pick Syracuse. But it’s more than my heart. It’s my head. Syracuse has been a more consistent football team all year. Despite the rankings on offense, Syracuse football has an established identity on offense. This is a run-first football team that relies on Sean Tucker to open up everything else.

Above all, this team has an identity as a team whose defense sets the tone of the game. They have guys like Garrett Williams and Duce Chestnut in the secondary leading the charge that will make life difficult for Drew Pyne. They will see that he locks in on Michael Mayer and shut it down. Notre Dame’s defense is definitely capable of making things tough for Syracuse offensively as well. But who will make one more play?

Syracuse football has a great track record in these games this year of being able to make one more play than their opponent and I think it happens here. I think the Orange come out on top in this one 24-20. I believe this will be a low-scoring game all the way into the 4th quarter when these offenses will finally settle down and make some plays.

The Orange will take the lead and hold the Irish offense out of the endzone when it counts to secure a 24-20 victory in the JMA Wireless Dome. The 12th man will make communication impossible when the Irish has the ball, and Syracuse football will improve to 7-1.

LET’S GO ORANGE!

Next. No. 16 Syracuse football vs. Notre Dame best bets for week 9. dark