Notre Dame will return to action after their bye week when they travel to MetLife Stadium to tangle with Syracuse. The Irish are heavy favorites versus the Orange and will look to sort out some issues they’ve shown to start the season before beginning a very difficult stretch of the schedule. Syracuse will no doubt be excited to play in primetime so the Irish must play their best in order to avoid a scare. The Irish will look to shutdown Syracuse’s ground attack that does most of the work for the Orange while exploiting a distinct advantage in athleticism over the home team’s defense. The following are the key matchups the Irish must control in order to emerge victorious this Saturday:
Jaylon Smith versus Terrel Hunt: Irish linebacker Jaylon Smith will be essential to the defense’s performance every week and this week is no different when he will be charged with shutting down Terrel Hunt. Hunt is a dual-threat quarterback with explosive running ability who has rushed for a team-high 273 yards and five touchdowns so far this season while passing for 488 yards and a touchdown. Smith will likely be attempting to contain Hunt in the pocket and make him primarily a passing quarterback. If Smith can do this the Irish will be well on their way to a win.
Joe Schmidt versus Prince-Tyson Gulley: Another Irish linebacker whose performance will be crucial to victory is Joe Schmidt as he will need to help slow down Syracuse running back Prince-Tyson Gulley. Schmidt has done a solid job in an inside linebacker role this season and will need to continue that against Gulley a gifted runner both between and outside the tackles. The Ohio native is averaging 7.8 yards per carry so far this season and is difficult to bring down because of his combination of elusiveness and power to go along with his 5’8’’ 193 pound frame.
Ronnie Stanley versus Micah Robinson: Irish left tackle Ronnie Stanley has done well protecting Everett Golson’s blindside thus far this season. This week he will face a workmanlike pass rusher in Micah Robinson. Robinson doesn’t have any traits that blow you away but he is solid in most areas and will be relentless in his pursuit of the quarterback so Stanley will need a good effort to keep him him away from Golson. Robinson has four tackles for loss this season, good for second on the Orange.
Everett Golson versus Cameron Lynch: Irish quarterback and current Heisman hopeful Everett Golson needs to play well every week for the Irish to have success and this week he will be seeing a lot of Syracuse linebacker Cameron Lynch. Lynch is the best player on the Orange defense with team-high’s in tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks. The Georgia native is a gifted pass-rusher with 4.5 sacks so far this season and he possesses the skills to contain Golson on the scramble. Thus it is important Golson has a big game passing as that’s where things come easier against the Orange defense.