5 Key Matchups in Notre Dame’s Showdown with Syracuse

Notre Dame will need it's defensive line to make Eric Dungey feel uncomfortable this weekend.

Currently ranked third and needing two more victories to clinch a spot in the college football playoffs, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish head to the new Yankee Stadium to take on the Syracuse Orangemen. Unlike recent years, where Syracuse has had their struggles, the Orangemen enter this clash ranked 12th and with an 8-2 mark.

The Irish are hoping to keep their momentum as they come off a solid 42-13 win over Florida State in which they did most of their damage in the first half. They were able to put up 32 first half points with reserve quarterback Brandon Wimbush at the controls, but the Notre Dame defense also once again made their mark throughout the contest.

Below are some of the main matchups that will be under scrutiny for this clash:

QB Ian Book vs. Syracuse Defense

After sitting out against Florida State to give his tender ribs a chance to get better, Book is expected back behind center. He’s been a key reason why the Irish offense has largely thrived over the past seven games. He’s managed to throw for 15 scores while only offering up four interceptions. Against Syracuse’s average defense, he could have a big afternoon.

The Orangemen have only held two of their 10 opponents under 20 points in a game, with their Top 10 offense helping lead the way. They enter this contest riding the crest of a four-game winning streak, but have allowed just over 31 points per game during that stretch and are giving up an average of 430 yards per game for the season. Those numbers will definitely get Book’s attention.

Notre Dame Defense vs. QB Eric Dungey

The Irish are allowing just under 19 points per game, ranking them in the Top 20 in that category. Offering a consistent pass rush and forcing multiple turnovers in six of their contests this season, Notre Dame has the talent to keep the pressure on an offense that’s averaging 44 points per game. They need to be up to the challenge of facing this potent attack.

One way they can effectively neutralize the Orangemen is by limiting the damage that Dungey can deliver. Of the 4,861 yards that Syracuse has accumulated, he’s has had a hand in nearly 60 percent of that total. He’s thrown for 14 touchdowns and only has five interceptions, so he’s not prone to throwing the ball up for grabs. Plus, he’s run for nearly 700 yards.

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T Liam Eichenberg vs. DE Alton Robinson

In his first season as a starter, Eichenberg has largely been able to handle this vital area. While he’s opened plenty of holes for the Notre Dame running game, his ability to protect Book’s blind side has been a key facet of the production that the quarterback has been able to deliver.

Eichenberg will again have a challenge in front of him with Robinson, who leads Syracuse with nine sacks on the year. Robinson’s also found his way into the backfield on six other occasions, so keeping him in check will pay huge dividends, It’s possible that Robert Hainsey will have to deal with a player who’s stripped and recovered a pair of fumbles along the way.

ILB Tevon Coney vs. RB Moe Neal

After a pair of huge games against Navy and Northwestern, Coney delivered a still-solid seven stops against Florida State. He’s had at least that many tackles in eight games this season and currently is far and away the team’s leading stopper by bringing down 87 ballcarriers in 2018. He’s also second among Irish defenders when it comes to stops behind the line.

Though Dungey leads the Orangemen in carries on the year, Neal has collected the most yards and averaged 6.1 each time he’s toted the ball. After spending two seasons between running back and wide receiver, he’s now stays in the backfield, though he has 10 catches on the year. He’s coming off his biggest game of the year after gaining 159 yards on just eight carries in Syracuse’s blowout win over Louisville. Stopping Dungey is important, but Notre Dame can’t ignore Neal.

CB Troy Pride vs. WR Sean Riley

Julian Love’s status is something to watch this week as he got dinged up at the end of the Florida State.  Kelly said he could have gone back in but still something to watch this week. That means that Pride’s effort becomes one to watch. After 10 games, he has only two interceptions, but his coverage has played a part in keeping the opposing passing attack under 200 yards per game. That coverage is reflected by his nine pass deflections, which is notable. The problem is that Love at the other corner has 14 on the year, stealing whatever accolades should be headed in Pride’s direction.

Riley leads the Orangemen with 54 catches, though most of his grabs are in the intermediate area, At just 5-feet-8, he doesn’t present a large target, but Dungey has had no problem finding him due to his speed and explosiveness. The Irish pass defense in general figures to be tested since Riley is just one of four Syracuse players who have at least 25 catches on the season.

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10 comments

  1. duranko 4 weeks ago

    TRUST

    This Notre Dame team is near the top of the charts on trust.

    The players trust the coaches

    The coaches trust the players
    The coaches trust each other
    the players trust each other
    The offense trusts the defense
    the defense trust the offense.

    Think back to the mid-90s when Davie was playing Cardinal Richelieu and arguing with that Canadian Wadsworth to Rasputin Holtz. Think of Holtz’ nepotism with his son Skippy. Those were low trust environments. Compare and contrast ND to that school in Columbus, where sneaky and Machiavellianism and unctuous platitudes rule. Trust is hard to find there.

    And that will get you through some rough spots.

    Xs and Os, Jimmies and Joes matter. But the very TEAMNESS of a team is quantified by the degree to which the whole transcends the sum of the parts. So too, ND 2018, a TEAM. with a lot of trust.

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    1. Fitz 4 weeks ago

      Durango…not sure what your problem is with Skip.

      “Skip became Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator in 1992. Between 1992 and 1994, Skip and his father recorded 40 wins, eight losses, and one tie, an 82.7% winning percentage. Together, they coached Notre Dame to the Cotton Bowl Classic twice, beating Texas A&M both times. Skip had the third-best total offense in the NCAA during the 1992 football season.[6]”

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      1. duranko 3 weeks ago

        nepotism blended with mediocrity/ He now has found his level in Ruston, LA.

        Look it up, Holtz had other options

        Further, investigate with great diligence, the contretemps between pop and the kid at South Carolina.

        ’92? Mirer Bettis Brooks, Becton, Ruddy Taylor, Dawson, Zellars, Clint Johnson, Derrick Mayes, Irv Smith. Heck, BGC”S BUDDY Sebastian “SUBBY” Nowicki could have coaeched that talent to a high ranking. .

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  2. Greg Kelly 4 weeks ago

    Super color clash last week with the green and blue. Now another costume change. Goofy looking to freak out ‘Cuse. Reminds me of Dwight Stones warming up at high jump pit, wearing Mickey Mouse t-shirt. And last week my ND nephew told me Irish warming up shirtless.

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  3. Shaun Donaldson 4 weeks ago

    How is Love’s status currently up in the air? He could have went back into the game on Saturday and supposedly he was a full participant at practice yesterday.

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    1. Ryan 4 weeks ago

      Great question! Kelly said he held him out as a precautionary measure.

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      1. Ryan 4 weeks ago

        Thanks for the update Brad. You had me worried for a minute!

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  4. Bob 4 weeks ago

    You forgot the matchup of the viewrs’ eyes versus these uniforms. We’ve endured a lot in the uniform department over the years of the Shamrock series, but when an ND player hits the field he should be wearing a gold helmet. The helmet should be INVIOLABLE.

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    1. SteelFanRob 4 weeks ago

      The biggest “matchup” issue will be dealing with Syracuse alumnus Mike Tirico calling this game!

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    2. Ron Burgundy 4 weeks ago

      ND bias!

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