Syracuse Preview: Orange You Glad We’re Here

Worst title ever.

This will be only the 9th all-time meeting between Notre Dame and Syracuse which doesn’t seem right. Whether it’s the basketball rivalry coloring things stretching back to the Big East days or the fact that this will be the 6th meeting in the past 16 years on the gridiron, this feels like a little more personal matchup than the history suggests.

Syracuse (+10.5) vs. Notre Dame

Yankee Stadium
The Bronx, New York City, New York
Date: Saturday, November 17, 2018
Time: 2:30 PM ET
TV: NBC
Series: 5-3-0 Notre Dame

Notre Dame moved this game to New York City likely thinking Syracuse would be a bit of a push over. Turns out, that’s not exactly the case. The Orange are currently experiencing a bit of a revival and at least as things stand today still alive for a major bowl game in mid-November. How much of a revival it actually is we shall investigate henceforth.

3 Pre-Game Topics

Dino-Myte

No team has been stuck in a consistent mediocrity quite like Syracuse. Since the S&P rankings were created in 2005 the Orange have finished the season somewhere between 96th and 74th on 9 of 13 seasons. This includes Syracuse head coach Dino Babers’ first 2 years on campus. It’s actually impressive consistency.

In year 3, it’s been a nice turn around for the Orange. Heading into Saturday, their No. 39 ranking in S&P is their highest ever just ahead of the 2012 finish of 40th. That season, Syracuse finished 8-5 with several close losses while ending on a 4-game winning streak.

Dino Babers is now officially on the Doing Good Things™ list and is checking a bunch of important boxes: crafty offense, disruptive defense, overachieving at a mid-tier Power 5 program, and solid off the field personality.

What of This Offense?

Plenty of stats back up this being a very good Syracuse offense. They are 7th nationally in scoring, and the 4th highest scoring Power 5 team behind Oklahoma, Alabama, and Clemson. So that’s good company. They’ve scored the 5th most rushing touchdowns in the country, too. In total offense, the Orange are 14th best in the nation.

However, Syracuse is only 39th in the S&P offense rankings (so below Notre Dame, for reference), 44th in rushing S&P, and 59th in raw yards per play. Average it out and it’s not a super scary offense but still one of the best the Irish will face this season.

Turnovers & Special Teams

Notre Dame has to be careful in this game. On a per-play basis there’s a lot to like about Notre Dame matching up with the Orange. However, Syracuse has forced 25 turnovers (tied 2nd most nationally) and comes in with the #1 S&P special teams in the country.

While no one would consider Justin Yoon a weakness, the Syracuse kicker Andre Szmyt is definitely a major strength and has nailed 27 of 29 field goals this year while missing zero of his extra points. The Orange also force touchbacks on kickoffs 20% more often than Notre Dame which could haunt the Irish at some point. On a per average basis, receiver Sean Riley is the nation’s leading punt returner at 17.38 and 10th nationally in total punt return yardage.

2 Key Opponents

QB Eric Dungey – It feels like Dungey has been around since the Paul Pasqualoni era. Now a senior, he’s an interesting quarterback because he does a lot for the Syracuse offense and yet he’s not putting up huge numbers for what he’s asked to do. He’s also basically remained the same quarterback since his early days–running a lot, around 60% completions, 7 yards per attempt or so, and solid touchdown-to-interception ratios.

Dungey is still running almost 15 times per game (down slightly from last year) but the offense as a whole is passing almost 12 fewer times per game than last year–likely a function of them winning more games late in the second half. For what it’s worth, Dungey was 31 of 51 for 363 yards and 5 total touchdowns in the wild meeting against Notre Dame back in 2016.

DE Alton Robinson – The Irish have played a few really good edge rushers this season. Here’s yet another! Robinson leads Syracuse with 15 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, and 9 quarterback hurries. Robert Hainsey could have his hands full on Saturday.

1 Prediction

The play-book for a Syracuse upset is pretty common as these things go: Win the turnover battle, dominate special teams, and hope a strong havoc-rate on defense slows down the Notre Dame offense. The Orange have to feel pretty good about how these things line up for them.

Obviously, this game is as much and maybe more about Notre Dame avoiding a face planting narrative loss. I have been pretty far down the angry list about moving this game from campus to The Bronx. There’s just something intensely wimpy to me worrying about a traditionally middling ACC team because of the travel involved with a game being played in a Notre Dame-friendly part of the country.

Still, you’d be foolish not to sense the conceit of the Shamrock Series could make this game a little more difficult than it should be. This was supposed to be (as all Shamrock Series’ have been set up) a mildly challenging effort on the field and fundraising “the campus of Notre Dame comes to town” effort off the field. If there’s a game where the Irish just fall flat, well how terrifically terrible would it be to happen this late in the season with an undefeated season on the line, while wearing these ridiculous uniforms (worst decision of the Swarbrick era change my mind), when so many feared such a debacle could’ve been avoided?

Wouldn’t it feel like such a post-Holtz thing to do for Notre Dame to lose this game? Pinstriped pants moping off the field, and such.

National Rankings

STAT IRISH ORANGE
F/+ 6 41
S&P+ 6 39
S&P+ Offense 27 39
S&P+ Defense 3 68

However, there’s something about this game that could counter-affect any silliness about the Shamrock Series. Syracuse really isn’t that good. Objectively, they are 12th in the College Football Playoff rankings because this is a historically bad year for middle-of-the-road teams and there’s a huge drop-off from the current 2-loss teams compared to the teams vying for a National Championship. I also think the weird 2:30 start in a baseball stadium with weird uniforms will bother Syracuse a little more than the Irish.

In a vacuum I absolutely could see Syracuse winning this game. I just have a hard time seeing Syracuse winning this game AND moving to 9-2 with the chance to finish with 10 or 11 wins. Don’t get me wrong they are having a nice season but this is a team that will likely finish something like 48th in the S&P rankings by year’s end and while their resume does scream classic overachieving squad (special teams, turnovers) some of that is likely to even out as they face stiffer competition.

You have to like what Babers has built at Syracuse, no doubt. Yet, here are his Syracuse wins according to opponent S&P rankings:

2016 – 17, 86, 123, FCS
2017 – 8, 79, 82, FCS
2018 – 45, 85, 87, 95, 98, 104, 130, FCS

“Wait, they’re due for their one big win of the season!”

Possibly, or specifically with 2018 their schedule has masked some things that aren’t quite as evident with their record and playoff ranking.

I do think there will be plenty of sweating involved, perhaps with Syracuse leading early by 10 points. This shall be our Shamrock Series drunk Yankees penance. Once things calm down Syracuse’s defensive susceptibility to giving up big plays in converse to that being the strength of the Notre Dame defense is the difference for me.

Syracuse 27

Notre Dame 39

By |2018-11-15T20:54:22+00:00November 16th, 2018|Football|62 Comments

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farquad2012The commenter formerly known as tcfka occtipusMDIRISHRussell Knoxkiwifan Recent comment authors
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nd09hls12
nd09hls12

ND 41
Cuse 20
Trash uniforms

Speaking of Swarbrick and the Shamrock Series, I don’t think his quotes from the SBT have been discussed here – https://www.ndinsider.com/football/rethinking-the-future-of-the-shamrock-series-and-why-the/article_1cf53cc5-afe1-55b7-99ac-192d4fd49694.html. Here’s the real money line:

““We’re independent to have opportunities like this one [playing the Shamrock Series game in NYC]. And I get people who say, ‘You shouldn’t do it.’ But then what you have to acknowledge is that you’re saying, ‘You shouldn’t be independent anymore.’”

I suspect this is just really bad spin, because otherwise it is completely out-of-touch. The Shamrock Series is, if anything, a problem with independence, not a reason to stay independent. If he wants to make the case that we have to do it to remain independent, fine; it reads like he thinks that the reason we are independent is to do things like the Shamrock Series, which, no.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Hard disagree. The upside of Independence is being able to provide an atmosphere that alumni and fans couldn’t get from a conference affiliation. We make less money as an independent. We don’t get the opportunity to play in a conference championship as an independent. We don’t get the benefit of the doubt in the national media that conference contenders get.

What we get is an opportunity to provide an incredible experience to our players, alums, and fans. This year we play 6 true home games, 4 true road games, and 2 neutral site games. That’s awesome, and a great selling point for fans and players. I don’t get the hatred of the Shamrock Series. I think it’s a fantastic benefit of being an Independent.

Clearwall
Clearwall

Have you ever been to a SS game? I suspect not, because you mention “incredible experience” and talk about the atmosphere provided to alumni and fans. The SS sucks the absolute life out of the crowd. It is a TERRIBLE atmosphere and it’s almost the antithesis of what football should be. Basically, the SS is every gold seat NDN whiner’s dream…a CFB game that is played in absolute silence with everyone sitting in their seats and never getting unruly or excited. I’ve been to 3 SS games and they’re all the same. Fans dont know when or how to cheer, the band can barely be heard, upper reaches of the stadiums are unsold so it appears like no one is there, and there’s nothing going on around the game except for tailgating. None of the pageantry exists and it’s just a bore, in general.

gambit1077
gambit1077

The one in Indy was pretty good except for the use of the jumbotron. Both teams brought their entire bands, stadium was definitely sold out, and maybe they learned a little about how to use the video board because it didn’t take them too long to iron out the use of it last year.

Michael Bryan

I don’t think they’ve been created equal or even close, so which three were you at? I’ve been to three as well and to me they’ve been far from the same.

2012 at Soldier Field was a very fun experience and pretty good crowd, from what I remember (it’s been a while, and that was one of my finer tailgating performances, from a beverage consumption perspective). The Indy one was not as good in my book but still solid, in part because it was kind of competitive and there were Purdue fans there to bring some energy as well. I was at the Wazzu game in ’09 in San Antonio as well, and well, the Golden Tate Hail Mary was cool, but the rest of the experience is as you describe above.

I think there’s still some figuring out of what the Shamrock Series should be – in venue, scheduling, opponent, etc. It’s probably impossible to pull something awesome off every year, and I’d rather skip doing it annually over doing Cuse @ Yankee Stadium, going back to the Alamodome for anyone, and any other nondescript NFL Stadium.

So if you can move to less frequency but higher quality – like Wisconsin @ Lambeau and then @ Soldier Field – by all means, keep it going. Get a good SEC or ACC opponent at the new Falcons stadium. Play the new stadium in Vegas against a solid West Coast opponent. The Ireland trips every so after seem great.

Also, the “fans don’t know when or how to cheer” also applies many times at ND Stadium. The solution for SS games is to make sure tickets/transporation are widely available to students, because they’re the engine driving the thing regardless of the venue.

Clearwall
Clearwall

I’ve been to Wazzu, ASU, and Purdzzzzzz. Wazzu was a culprit of the Alamodome. I have no idea why the hell we wanted to go BACK there for Army. That place is probably the worst indoor venue in the history of sports (never been to the Trop which i hear is horrible too). Jerry world is the complete opposite and that game was probably the BEST of all the SS I’ve been too. Doesnt hurt that it was the only other game besides the one this week where we played a team that had an actual pulse. Purdzzz was ok-ish partly because the proximity to West Lafayette allowed a lot of PU students and fans to attend and the location isnt far from ND either. Same with Chicago, I’d imagine.

MikeyB
MikeyB

I guess that’s fair, I’ve only been to the two within driving distance. I thoroughly enjoyed both.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

The football upside of independence is that it allows a small college in Northern Indiana to recruit nationally and carves out Notre Dame as unique rather than in a geographical rut. The school upside is that it allows that small college to have a national brand . The historical upside is that ND has been wronged by conferences before, and we have successfully said FU to those old powers that be and done it our way.

If you want to make the argument that we need some national, neutral site games to get those benefits, fine. But the Shamrock Series games are an unfortunate byproduct towards the ends listed above, not an (or, as Swarbrick seems to say, the) end in-and-of itself.

KG
KG

A-effing-men.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Lol I love that someone downvoted this. I still cannot wrap my head around what the downvote means. I always assumed it was for posting something rude or for someone praising Michigan.

KG
KG

Apparently someone doesn’t like me putting the eff in the middle of their amen.
* shrugs*

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

I considered downvoting this just for utter confusion, but then I upvoted, because reasons.

MikeyB
MikeyB

So the whole point of being an Independent is because a bunch of stuff that mattered 40 years ago?

If we were in the ACC, we’d be playing along the entire east coast, with games in the southeast and florida. There would be no need to drop the California series. I don’t see why recruiting would be seriously impacted at all. You’d probably lose the opportunity for more games in Texas (which, in my opinion, we aren’t even currently taking enough advantage of as an independent).

Notre Dame’s brand would stay national even if we joined the ACC at this point. We’re a National Brand despite winning 0 championships in 25 years.

“We” (most people working at ND and attending ND are not included here) were wronged by a bunch of people who are dead or no longer involved with their conferences. I bet there aren’t more than 5 players on the team that know the history of conferences wronging ND. I guess good for us for continuing to spite them?

The upside of being an Independent is being able to basically do whatever the hell we want, playing against whoever the hell we want, wherever the hell we want. The Shamrock Series is a great byproduct of our Independence. I guess I’m just having a hard time wrapping my head around the other major benefits.

KG
KG

40 years ago. And some things now over 100 years ago. Yes, the things that made ND what it is.

Feel free to not care about those things. But you don’t need to belittle people who do.

ND is an independent because it can be. Whatever one’s particular reasons for thinking they SHOULD be are, ND’s the only team in 2018 that can make it work and be nationally relevant. Army is probably fine staying the way they are, because they’re an academy–but they’re also playing their second FCS opponent in a row this week. BYU has tried, and even has their own network, and is realizing how hard it is.

Sure, ND could stay a “national brand” if they joined the ACC. But why? Until there’s compelling football reason to do so, like conference championship becomes a requirement for entry to the playoff, then eff everyone else. People bitch about us not being in a conference because their small little brains can’t handle anything that’s different. “Well, everyone else is in one” is never going to sell me as a reason to join a conference. So who cares if our “reasons” are things that happened 100 years ago, or because you like the Shamrock Series games? ND’s history doesn’t matter to you, we get it. You don’t need to knock other people because it matters to them.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Lol bud take a deep breath. I’ve never once said we should join a conference.

KG
KG

No, you implied that anyone who cared about anything from 40 years ago is stupid.

I know you didn’t say we should join a conference, but you also made a case that joining a conference wouldn’t hurt us. I acknowledge that, but I’m also pointing out that there’s no compelling reason to join a conference, as an addition.

Publius2010
Publius2010

DUEL
DUEL
DUEL
DUEL

KG
KG

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MikeyB
MikeyB

I guess I’m looking at it from Swarbrick’s perspective (where this all started). I think he’d be failing pretty hard at his job if the only reason he wanted to be an Independent was “that’s what we’ve always done.” That’s all.

KG
KG

He has a constituency that cares about being independent. That’s why it should matter to him. Some of us care because we think history matters, if not because Michigan being led by such a bigoted asshole that he forced the B1G to blackball us affects us directly, but because we like how it resulted in us barnstorming around, taking all comers, and the resulting independence became part of the ND identity. Some care because it lets us do what we want. Some probably don’t care, but the majority of his constituents do, especially the ones making big donations.

To be clear, I’m not angry or anything. There’s LOTS of reasons to stay an independent, and history is one of them. It’s the one that probably elicits the most emotional response from people–hard to get really invested in whether or not we play in San Antonio or whatever. I agree, it shouldn’t be the ONLY thing that Jack thinks about, but he definitely needs to account for the fact that it does matter to a lot of people,.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

My man, caring about things that happened decades ago is intrinsic to the Notre Dame Football brand.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Ha this is very very fair.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

“If you want to make the argument that we need some national, neutral site games to get those benefits, fine”

That would be my thought.

I also think the reason they can “recruit nationally and carve out Notre Dame as unique” is because of this, and probably why most of the games are in either NFL stadiums or down south near the talent. It’s pretty cool they can go practically anywhere (even Ireland!) and do anything.

Did totally find Swarbrick’s logic confounding though, for obvious reasons. Doesn’t do him much good admit the obvious that it’s an extra and unnecessary hurdle for simply the football team’s goal of trying to win. It’s been pretty clear Swarbrick’s mission is a lot more broad than that. (Which IMO isn’t an all bad thing).

gambit1077
gambit1077

I disagree that is the money line from the article. Try this one:

“A 2012 agreement signed with Syracuse predated ND’s commitment to play an average of five ACC games a year. In that earlier agreement, Swarbrick said, Syracuse officials agreed to move two games from the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The implied return was a future Irish home game to be moved in the same general vicinity.”

Apparently this is the culmination of a previous deal and whether or not we could have reneged on the deal given the ACC developments since then keeping our word was the right thing to do. Jack goes on to say that they aren’t looking at the SS as an annual event going forward:

“We’re going to play neutral-site games (on average) three times in six years here. I think that’s about right.”

tlndma
tlndma

I don’t see what it has to do with being an independent. Other teams play neutral site games and they are in conferences. I’m not against neutral site games but this just seems like a false narrative.

Clearwall
Clearwall

Completely agree with everything written here. Cuse has feasted on some vastly inferior competition and their numbers reflect that. 60% of their elite turnover numbers came in 4 games(WMU, Wagner, UConn, and Louisville). ND is top 4 in the country in turnovers lost and are absolutely elite in protecting the ball. Only 1 fumble in 3 games total this year. Cuse is writing a recipe for an upset sandwich but they only have the ingredients for a letdown soup. Irish beat the spread in this one, but not by a ton. I’m thinking 38-24

gambit1077
gambit1077

Irish in the NFLcomment image

juicebox
juicebox

If only we had landed Braden Smith. Would have the trifecta box.

MikeyB
MikeyB

After Qs fantastic videos last week, Glinch deserves some love too

https://twitter.com/thecheckdown/status/1063213105038024709

tlndma
tlndma

I’m not worried about Syracuse’s punt returner. We’re not going to punt. ND 41 Syr. 24

my name is inigo montoya
my name is inigo montoya

BK should send McKenzie Milton a fruit basket for the free bulletin board material:
https://sports.yahoo.com/ucf-qb-mckenzie-milton-better-no-3-notre-dame-141240006.html

But honestly, I’m super nervous about this game. Not only because we are tempting fate with SS at Yankee Stadium, but also because we are Notre Dame, it’s 2018, and I’ve been conditioned to expect the other shoe to drop

my name is inigo montoya
my name is inigo montoya

Also, I have loved watching the adult mouth-breathers at ND collectively freak out about the Yankee Stadium game as the season has progesssed. ACross has had some top-quality posts lately. He’s peaking at the right time in the season, trying to win November.

my name is inigo montoya
my name is inigo montoya

NDN*

And I was probably taking it a bit too far calling them mouth breathers…

KG
KG

Yes, you were. The clear lack of oxygen to their brains most of the time would indicate they don’t do much breathing of any type.

The commenter formerly known as tcfka occtipus
The commenter formerly known as tcfka occtipus

“Some animals which live on land have a skin which is so thin that gases can easily pass through it. We say that they have a permeable skin. Earthworms and amphibians have a skin which is permeable to gases.”

http://www.saburchill.com/chapters/chap0022.html

KG
KG

You could tell me that the regular commenters at NDN were earthworms and I’d totally buy it.

IrishTexan
IrishTexan

Andy has been approaching a parody of himself for some years now. But it’s truly impressive this past few weeks. Peaking indeed.

farquad2012
farquad2012

I finally got myself banned there for calling out the site owner who wrote their preview that predicted that Syracuse would win 33-31. I guess the Sebastian Maniscalco “aren’t you embarrassed?” gif was a little over the top, but he seriously owes Clark Lea and the student athletes on our defense an apology.

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

Has there been any update about Ian Book’s health?

gambit1077
gambit1077

He was full go at practice all week and is starting. He looked good with no rust by Tuesday per BK.

The commenter formerly known as tcfka occtipus
The commenter formerly known as tcfka occtipus

comment image

DrIck
DrIck

A-freakin-+ on the headline

MrTgon
MrTgon

Am I reading this correctly?:

‘Cuse was ranked 58th last week in the S&P. They jumped 19 spots after beating…………….Louisville. Granted, they spanked Louisville, but so did pretty much everyone else but Indiana State and Western Kentucky.

In any event, thanks for the article! As always, good read.

kiwifan
kiwifan

I’m not taking this game for granted at all. I’d much rather it be on our turf. The uniforms certainly add nothing, and hopefully if the players look at each other and feel like they look stupid, it won’t carry over to play on the field.

What really worries me is that in things that count, they have the goods on offense— scoring right up with Bama, Clemson, and Okie in the power five, all of whom have had their share of cupcake games too, rushing td numbers, very good receivers and QB, kicker who makes FGs from 50 yards out semi-routinely. Hopefully we can contain them. I rewatched the VT game, and they moved the ball pretty well on us with a much less potent offense. Love gave up a lot of decently long receptions to the topVT receiver, and it looks like Syracuse has more and better receivers. VT had a trick play TD called back early for one of the tricky-tackiest fouls ever (illegal lineman a yard or so to far downfield far behind the action on the play, and after the bust coverage was a fait accompli ), and muffed a scoring try inside the 2 yard line when the RB and QB bumped into each other. Scores there would have been very meaningful in that stadium, especially the trick TD so early on.

They scored 23 points on Clemson, so I think we need to put a lot of points up and keep mistakes to a minimum.

I don’t think this is a gimme game.

KG
KG

I don’t think anyone considers it a gimme, at least I don’t and haven’t seen many people say that. Syracuse is an odd team, in that their metrics have some that are really scary, and some that aren’t. Yes, they scored 23 on Clemson, but they’d have given up a lot more than 27 if Clemson had either of their two starting QBs playing the whole game. If we think we’re playoff-worthy, we should win this game. If don’t, then hello Peach Bowl or whatever.

DrIck
DrIck

What are the odds kiwi watches the whole game?