It is the game that has been circled on the calendar for weeks. As unfitting as it feels to say that about Syracuse, they have some talent and are a real test for the Irish Saturday. The 8-2 Orange sit in second place in the ACC Atlantic division and not only is there playoff implications on the line, both teams have history on their side.
History in Yankee Stadium
Both Notre Dame and Syracuse have a long history playing in Yankee Stadium dating back to the early 20th century. This will be the 27th game Notre Dame will play and enter Saturday with an overall record of 17-6-3 in the house that Ruth/Jeter built. More importantly Notre Dame sits at 8-0 in Shamrock Series games since they started in 2009.
Syracuse comes into this game with quite the history in Yankee Stadium as well. Syracuse currently has a 7-1 record and one of those wins comes against Notre Dame back in the 1960’s. More recently they have wins in the Pinstripe Bowl in both 2014 and 2016.
Both have success and also come in as highly touted teams this season. Syracuse is 12th in the nation and has shocked just about everyone. But the ranking shouldn’t be a surprise and when you look at the numbers, this isn’t a fluke.
What Could Trip Up Notre Dame
Syracuse is the hardest remaining game on the schedule and for good reason. ESPN gives Notre Dame a 77% chance to win this game before heading to USC next week. Even with a rival on the horizon, they just can’t overlook what is right in front of them. (Despite the fact Notre Dame is 4-4 in the game after the Shamrock Series)
Syracuse isn’t a perfect team but there is a lot they do well and plenty that could give the Irish issues. The Syracuse defense is prone to big plays which should bring a touch of excitement for Dexter Williams. However, if they can keep the big plays limited, they can wreak havoc on Ian Book and company.
Syracuse currently sits at fourth in the country in turnover margin with +13. This results in an extra 4.5 points a game for the Orange and has obvious adverse effects on the opposing offense. The defense is also first in the country in opposing offense success rate on third-and-long. So while they are prone to giving up the big play, Notre Dame needs to stay ahead of the down and distance or could stall out.
If Notre Dame gets themselves in a hole, it could be a tough one to dig out of. Syracuse averages 42.4 points per game and can be dynamic. As good as the Irish defense is, shutting down Syracuse and holding them to 14 is unlikely. This is a game that would be designed for Brandon Wimbush to lose. As much as I appreciate everything he has done, I’m thankful Ian Book is back.
Where Notre Dame can Thrive
Like mentioned earlier, Syracuse isn’t a perfect team. They run an uptempo offense led by QB Eric Dungey that averages 42.4 points per game. With that said, the red zone has not been kind to the Syracuse offense. The Orange offense sits at a lowly 100th in the country for touchdowns scored in the red zone. They can already score in bunches but they also leave plenty on the board weekly.
A key player for the Irish to key on will be the guy running the offense for Syracuse, Eric Dungey. The Senior QB plays a very similar style to Brandon Wimbush so fans should know what to expect. While Dungey isn’t as athletic, he is a better thrower. By better thrower, it isn’t really by much as he only has 14 touchdowns to five interceptions on the year.
Notre Dame should be able to keep Dungey in check because of their dominant defensive line. Syracuse should be no match for the powerful front seven of Notre Dame. That doesn’t mean that Notre Dame will keep the Irish to 17 points, even Clemson couldn’t put forth that effort. It should mean that containing Dungey but getting him uncomfortable will but stall out the Orange. The biggest worry has to be Dungey making plays with his legs.
Dungey has 690 yards rushing and an impressive 12 rushing touchdowns. Like I said, he plays an awful lot like Wimbush except Wimbush is the superior athlete. Dungey is also known to be a bit injury prone. He hasn’t missed significant time but he has gotten banged up quite a bit over the last two years. When you play a line as dangerous as Notre Dame’s and have a history of nagging injuries, it might just change the way you play.
Thanks to the ACC scheduling, Notre Dame shared some common opponents with Syracuse to help paint a picture of the talent. Both teams had 20+ point wins over Florida State and both teams took care of Wake Forest. Pittsburgh is the outlier with the two as it is one of Syracuse’s two losses. While it is easy to think that should be enough for comfort right there, it isn’t. The game was played in Pittsburgh and had a long halftime delay due to weather. Syracuse ended up losing by seven while Notre Dame also struggled and walked away with a five point victory. There were plenty of data points to look at with common opponents but it ended up all pretty similar.
The Shamrock Series, Yankee Stadium and giving up a game in November? I hate it all. But Jack needs his Second beach house so this is what we have.
Despite being played in New York City, this will be a very Notre Dame crowd. According to Vividseats.com, Notre Dame fans are buying tickets at a 4-1 rate compared to Syracuse fans. This is also technically a Notre Dame home game so they did get the bigger allotment of tickets.
The crowd will be pro Irish and the defense will do what it does best. Dexter Williams is arguably the best running back to come through Notre Dame in a while and is primed for big plays. The Syracuse defense will give up some big plays and an incredibly accurate Ian Book should find the holes in the Orange defense.
Notre Dame will start slow, they always seem to with Ian Book. After a few drives and settling in, the Irish will impose their will on offense and continue with a dominant defense.
Notre Dame 38 Syracuse 23
Started Saturday Tailgate in 2018. Covering all things college football and talking Notre Dame on Twitter.