Notre Dame Football Primer: #2 Irish return home to face Syracuse

Fresh off a top-20 road victory in Chapel Hill, the Fighting Irish head back home for Senior Day in South Bend. Unfortunately, the students have all left for this semester, but this will still be an unforgettable home game for many of the Notre Dame Seniors. The Irish will be facing the upset-minded Syracuse Orange, who look to play spoiler in this unusual December matchup in South Bend.

Essential Game Info:

  • Game Time: December 5th at 2:30 pm ET on NBC
  • Location: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana
  • Matchup History: The Irish are 6-3 all-time against the Syracuse Orange (Last Meeting 2018: Notre Dame won 36 to 3)
  • Current Odds: Notre Dame -34.0

Weather Forecast

The current forecast for GameDay shows a 20% chance of precipitation with a high of 40 degrees and a low of 31.

Syracuse Details:

  • Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
  • Head Coach: Dino Babers
  • 2020 Record: 1-9 (1-8)
  • 2019 Record: 5-7 (2-6)

Syracuse Storylines:

Uncharacteristically bad season for Dino Babers. These two programs last met back in 2018 at Yankee Stadium, and the anticipation was certainly different. Back then, Notre Dame was ranked #5 at 10-0, while the Syracuse Orange came into the contest ranked #15 at 8-2. A top-15 matchup was the headline in New York City that afternoon, but the Orange have not been the same since.

Quarterback Rex Culpepper headlines the offense. In 2020, Culpepper is 76 for 161 (47.2%) with 843 passing yards, 8 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. The Syracuse Orange Quarterback has 23 rushing attempts for -72 yards through 10 games. While the Syracuse Offense has used a variety of quarterbacks, the offensive line has relinquished a total of 37 sacks this year.

Key Syracuse Orange players. The rushing attack is led by running back Sean Tucker, who has 114 attempts for 525 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and 3 touchdowns. The leading receivers for the Orange are Taj Harris and Anthony Queeley. This fall, Harris has 50 receptions for 664 yards and 5 touchdowns, while Queeley has 33 catches for 336 yards and 1 score.

Notre Dame Storylines:

Ian Book continues his elite level of play. Since the Clemson matchup, Book has played like one of the best quarterbacks in the country. The fifth-year senior has taken over games with both his throwing and running capabilities. Last weekend, the Irish quarterback went 23 for 33 with 279 yards and a passing touchdown. On the ground, Book had 8 rushes for 48 yards.

The Notre Dame Offensive Line continues to dominate. Even without Jarrett Patterson and Tommy Kraemer, the Irish Offense tallied 199 yards of rushing. Kyren Williams led the team with 23 carries for 124 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and 2 touchdowns. Sophomore Zeke Correll and Senior Josh Lugg played admirably against the Tar Heels.

Correll played well in his first career start for the Irish. Fortunately, the bad snaps did not cost the Irish but need to be cleaned up moving forward.

Clark Lea’s defense is suffocating. Do not be surprised if the Notre Dame Defensive Coordinator wins the Broyles Award, given to the country’s best assistant coach each season. After two early touchdowns against North Carolina, the Irish Defense kept the Tar Heels to only 3-points the game’s remaining three quarters. Mack Brown’s team was averaging over 500 yards per contest and they were held to just 298 yards on Friday.

A head coaching position at Lea’s alma mater Vanderbilt just opened and the Commodores should indeed be reaching out. For now, it is uncertain Clark Lea’s interest in the position or even Vanderbilt’s for that matter.

Head to Head Matchups:

Notre Dame Offense vs. Syracuse Defense: The Fighting Irish Offense had their struggles against the Tar Heels, but they were facing a top-20 opponent on the road and scored 31 points. Notre Dame’s Offense has become a balanced attack with Ian Book in the passing game and Kyren Williams in the rushing attack.

The Syracuse defense allows 32 points per game, which certainly does not fare well in this matchup.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Syracuse Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: The Syracuse Orange are scoring 18 points per game this season, while the Fighting Irish are only allowing 17 points a game. It will not be easy for Dino Baber’s squad to move the ball in this matchup.

Notre Dame’s Defense under Clark Lea has the clear advantage in this category heading into Saturday.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Special Teams: The Syracuse kicker, Andre Szmyt, is 9 for 11 on the season with a long of 48 yards. Conversely, Jonathan Doerer is 13 for 18 with a long of 48 yards.

Overall, the Fighting Irish have played elite football across all three phases of the game in 2020, and the special teams department has been no exception.

Advantage: Tie

My Prediction:

Irish are focused on an ACC Championship berth. In the marquee matchup of the weekend, the Irish dominated the #19 North Carolina Tar Heels on the road. Brian Kelly and Notre Dame firmly cemented themselves as the #2 team in the country. As the schedule moves forward, the Irish have only two regular-season games remaining.

Final home game of 2020. Notre Dame is returning home for what will be an uncommon “Senior Day” in South Bend. On paper, the Irish should take over this game, and I expect to see many players on the field Saturday. Notre Dame needs to continue their consistency in preparation for a probable rematch with Clemson in a few weeks.

Prediction: Notre Dame 42 Syracuse 6

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  1. So ‘stutter-step’ Book has only one more game to practice throwing the long ball before playing Clemson?
    Hmmmm, not good, not good.

  2. I’m not 100% sure, but the ACC announced that Notre Dame has qualified for the title game based on a 9 game schedule. ND holds all tie-breakers in a 9 game schedule. The game vs Syracuse is the season finale.

    The game at Wake Forest looks to be canceled.

    1. Yes cancelled. The Irish will not play Wake Forest. Both Clemson (assuming they win this weekend) and ND will have a week off before playing each other again.

      1. The Wake Forest cancellation was the only part of the story that was omitted that I read on The Athletic website.

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