SU Football Caps Off 2020 at Notre Dame

Dec 4, 2020

Former Syracuse head coach Greg Robinson smiles after SU defeats Notre Dame 24-23 on the road in 2008. The Orange have not bested the Irish since.
Credit Cuse.com

In any other season, the opportunity to play Notre Dame would be irregular. This year, however, the Fighting Irish are a member of the ACC, so the Orange travel to South Bend, Indiana this Saturday to battle the number two team in the nation.

The matchup represents the tenth meeting between Syracuse and Notre Dame and the third of
head coach Dino Babers’ tenure. The chance to play one of college football’s blue bloods is not something Dino takes lightly.

“You’re getting an opportunity to play Notre Dame and ‘Touchdown Jesus’ and the whole nine yards. Not only do you get to play, you get to play on their TV station,” said Babers on Monday. “It’s a big deal.”

The last time the Orange and Irish faced off was 2018. Syracuse was 8-2 at the time and ranked 12th in the country. Notre Dame was 10-0 and the number three team in college football. It had all the ingredients to be a close contest, yet the Irish demolished the Orange 36-3.

In 2020, Notre Dame remains a national championship contender, entering the matchup against SU undefeated. The Orange, however, have tumbled from the promising 2018 season to a 1-9 record in the current campaign.

“[Notre Dame is] having a fantastic year, they’re leading the ACC right now,” said Babers. “They’re at the top. We know where we’re at right now.”

Syracuse is at the bottom of the ACC standings. Barring a miraculous comeback victory (ESPN gives SU just a 2% chance to win on Saturday per the Football Power Index), the Orange will finish 2020 in the basement of the conference.

It is a lopsided matchup between first, Notre Dame, and worst, Syracuse. The disparity of on-field success, though, is a positive for some SU players. 

Nykeim Johnson hauls in a pass that leads to a 60-yard catch and run versus NC St last week. With that touchdown, the senior ties his previous season-high of four scores.
Credit Cuse.com

“I’m glad we got to play those guys again,” said senior wide receiver Nykeim Johnson, who was with the Orange for the 2018 matchup. “…That’s definitely a great football team, and a well-coached team. So, it’s definitely going to be good to play against them.”

Johnson was held without a catch in the 2018 contest versus the Irish.

You do not have to be an expert to know that SU beating a team like Notre Dame is a near insurmountable task. Dino Babers conceded that when asked the chances of stopping the Irish offense.

Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book (12) releases a pass under pressure versus Syracuse in 2018. The senior has accounted for 18 total touchdowns and one interception this season.
Credit Cuse.com

“I would say not good,” Babers chuckled. “There’s no doubt [Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book] is having an amazing year.”

Currently, the Orange are 33.5-point underdogs, one-half point greater than the deficit they fell to the Irish in 2018. But the reason they play the games is because matchups are not decided by depth charts, recruiting stars or spreads, contests are won and lost on Saturdays. This weekend SU has a chance to pick up an improbable victory, or an incredibly probable loss.

Syracuse and Notre Dame kick off at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Tune in the 88.3 FM, WAER.org, or the WAER app at 2 p.m. for St. Joseph’s Health Countdown to Kickoff.