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A Marquee Matchup in the Bronx

After yet another decisive 54-23 win against subpar ACC opponent, Louisville, Syracuse found their way to the 12th spot in the national polls this week. Although the Syracuse fan base has most likely been enjoying these weekly, high scoring blowouts, the end of November signifies the beginning of two marquee matchups: the first of which is the much anticipated “Shamrock Series” at Yankees Stadium against the undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish. 

Beating Notre Dame in football is like beating Duke in basketball: it’s extremely fun. Most people do not have a justified reason for why they dislike Notre Dame’s football program, but a win against them always seems to feel a bit sweeter no matter their record. This Saturday, the Syracuse football program has a chance to attain this euphoric feeling as a win would not only continue to move the Orange up the polls but also add a valuable win to their resume as the postseason approaches. Of course, I am making this sound much simpler than it will be as the Orange must execute a nearly flawless game plan to defeat a well-coached Fighting Irish squad. 


For a Notre Dame team coming off of a solid win against Florida State last week, the game plan is fairly simple heading into the last stretch of the regular season: win and live to see another week as a team in the Top 4. Unlike a few top ranked teams in past years, the Irish cannot afford a single loss this season as their status as an independent team bars them from padding their resume with a conference championship. With Syracuse as their only true opponent remaining, the Irish have already developed the win or go home mentality that teams have yet to overcome.   


Tune in to WAER this Saturday at 2pm for Countdown to Kickoff on 88.3

However, as impressive as the Irish have been, the Orange’s game plan may prove to be simple as their style of offense serves as part of a perfect formula for Saturday’s game. Despite their unblemished record, Notre Dame has been notorious in letting teams hang around this season, due in large part to their inconsistency in defending offenses who play up-tempo and maximize drives by running short yardage plays. This was most notable in the game against Ball State, which kept it close with the Irish by running 97 plays. Taking a page out of Ball State’s book, Syracuse should look to take advantage of Notre Dame’s front four, which has gone without a sack in four of their last 10 games, by continuing to run their hurry-up offense. Establishing Moe Neal in the run game early and often will allow QB Eric Dungey to expose the Notre Dame corners with those infamous quick wide out throws to wide receivers, Sean Riley and Taj Harris. 

In the end, the x’s and o’s are an insignificant part in what has been the narrative for this Syracuse Orange football program all season. Similar to the Clemson game, Head Coach Dino Babers and his team have another opportunity to prove to the entire college football community that they can compete with the top teams in the country. However, as Boeheim takes his basketball team down to Madison Square Garden for their first true games this weekend, it is more about the Orange proving to the Syracuse community that this season has set the precedent for the football program in the future. A win over a well-rounded and well-coached Notre Dame team would begin the process of instilling the belief that Syracuse fans should be as proud to be a football school as they are a basketball school.  


What to Watch For: Notre Dame QB Ian Book is expected to return after missing last week’s game with an upper body injury. A player whose arm has continually placed his team in winning positions throughout the season, watch for how the Syracuse defensive linemen and linebackers play Book and whether his injury impacts his throwing motion this weekend.


For more analysis, click the attached podcast file and be sure to tune in to WAER's Countdown to Kickoff on Saturday on 88.3.