Notre Dame Football Preview ’18: The Syracuse Orange

Syracuse QB Eric Dungey

The 2018 Notre Dame football schedule shows that this year’s edition of the Shamrock Series will take place on November 17 when the Irish will face the Syracuse Orangemen at Yankee Stadium. In all eight previous Shamrock clashes, Notre Dame has come away with the win.

While the Irish have played at this version of the baseball shrine only twice, they’ve played on the site 26 times. In fact, these two teams met at the original Yankee Stadium on Thanksgiving Day 1963, with Syracuse emerging with a 14-7 win. Over the entire series, which dates back to 1914, the Irish hold an 8-3 record.

Syracuse Offense: Protection is Key

Head coach Dino Babers begins his third year hoping to take the next step after a 4-8 finish last year. That’s likely if Eric Dungey can remain upright throughout the year. His lengthy injury history is cause for concern, though it’s entirely possible that Tommy DeVito may be able to supplant him in the starting lineup. The redshirt freshman brings accuracy to the Orangemen offense.

Running back at Syracuse has seen some legends tote the ball over the years. While neither Dontae Strickland nor Moel Neal don’t rise to that level, they should give Syracuse a respectable running attack after combining for nearly 1,000 yards on the ground last year. After them, question marks exist.

The two holes in the Orangemen’s receving corps will likely be filled by the duo of Devin Butler and Nykeim Johnson. Butler had 33 catches last year, though Johnson only managed to grab eight passes. Tight end Ravian Pierce will look to expand his output beyond his 29 catches from 2017.

Syracuse has experience on the line, with left tackle Cody Conway a key aspect when it comes to keeping Dungey healthy. Either Mike Clark or Patrick Davis will handle the right tackle slot. Aaron Roberts returns from injury to man one guard position, with either Evan Adams or Sam Heckel taking care of the other spot. If Adams wins that spot, Heckel could very well supplant last year’s starter, Airon Servais.

Syracuse Defense: Recovery and Change

This side of the ball went through growing pains in 2017, allowing an average of over 32 points per game, and look to take some major steps forward this year. The defensive line struggled through injuries last year, though tackles Chris Slayton and McKinley Williams serve as this area’s centerpieces. The ends are more of a guessing game.

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A complete overhaul at linebacker is on tap at a position that’s been solid for the past decade. The sides figure to be manned by Andrew Armstrong and Kielan Whitner, while the middle should have Ryan Guthrie to take over. The obvious problem is that this trio only had a collective 32 tackles for all of 2017.

Like the line, the defensive backs had their share of injuries that affected play, especially at the safety position. Some consistency at cornerback will be evident with returning starters Christopher Fredrick and Scoop Bradshaw, who broke up 10 passes between them, but only Fredrick collected a single interception. The fact that injury-plagued Antwan Cody appears to be healthy is a good sign at free safety, while Evan Foster and his 64 tackles return at strong safety.

Syracuse Special Teams: A Big Hole to Fill

Losing four-year starting kicker Cole Murphy puts pressure on his likely replacement, punter Sterling Hofrichter. The danger is that not many other punting choices are available and handling both jobs could possibly compromise what’s been a solid performance in his original role. Speaking of double duty, Sean Riley is back to handle work on both kickoff and punt returns.

The Last Time Notre Dame Played Syracuse

Two years ago on the Notre Dame football schedule, the Irish had no trouble with their offense in a wild 50-33 victory that was played at Giants Stadium. Things cooled down in the second half after the first five minutes of the game saw 36 points scored. One indication that the defenses were absent can be seen in the fact that DeShone Kizer threw for a career-high 471 yards and the Orangemen collected 489 yards of offense themselves.

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4 comments

  1. HURLS 1 year ago

    “Syr”? Vague memories of Fall, 1985 dance. (SYR = Screw Your Room-mate) The Syr football team? Honestly don’t know if they merit any research.

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    1. hunter bright 1 year ago

      LOL

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  2. hunter bright 1 year ago

    The Syracuse Orange upset #1 Clemson at home & gave LSU a difficult time in Baton Rouge in 2017.

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  3. Greg Kelly 1 year ago

    Syracuse, another fly in the ointment.

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