Why Syracuse football will upset Notre Dame

Why SU football will upset Notre Dame

Commentary: No one should underestimate the Orange against the Fighting Irish.
Published: November 15, 2018 | Updated: November 26th, 2018 at 11:27 am
The Syracuse Orange football team runs onto field
The SU football team runs onto the field at the Carrier Dome, ready to take on Louisville.

Before the season, the Syracuse vs. Notre Dame game wasn’t supposed to be this big.

In fact, it was probably an afterthought for Irish fans. It was likely looked at as a just a cool experience to get to play at Yankee Stadium and as a way to prepare to for the big one against USC the next week.

Well, instead, USC is unranked at 5-5 and is fighting for bowl eligibility. Syracuse is 8-2 and ranked No. 12 in the country.

Just like everyone expected, right?

The Orange has surprised everyone this season.

On the gambling site BetDSI, Las Vegas set Syracuse’s over/under wins at 4.5. Syracuse was also picked to finish dead last in the ACC preseason poll. DEAD LAST.

It is truly remarkable what Dino Babers’ squad has done this season after two straight 4-8 seasons.

And they aren’t done yet.

Let me cut to the chase: Notre Dame is overrated.

Yes, they are 10-0 — I get it. However, the Irish have only played one team that is currently ranked in the top 25.

Stanford was No. 7 when Notre Dame beat the Cardinal. Stanford has gone 2-3 since and is now unranked.

Notre Dame’s other ranked win was against Virginia Tech on Oct. 6 when the Hokies were ranked No. 24. Tech is now 4-5 and arguably the biggest disappointment in the ACC.

The Irish won over Michigan, a team that is currently in the top 25, in the Fighting Irish’s season opener. That’s a very impressive win, especially considering that the Wolverines haven’t lost since and are now ranked No. 4.

But that’s the thing — Michigan is much better now than they were in week one. Not that I’m trying to take anything away from the significance of that win from Notre Dame, but it’s tough to judge a team in the first week of the season.

The Quarterback Situation

Ian Book took over at quarterback for Notre Dame in week four and has since been pretty much unstoppable. In seven games this season, Book has thrown for 1824 yards, 15 touchdowns and only four interceptions.

However, the Irish’s QB has not been tested.

In his six starts, his opponents’ combined records are 29-30. He has not played a team that is currently better than 6-4.

Syracuse has a dangerous defense, that ranks second in the ACC in interceptions and sacks. Saturday will be, by far, the biggest test for the junior quarterback.

The field general on the other sideline is the SU’s record setter, Eric Dungey. The senior QB has set 16 program records and has been a nightmare for defensive lines in recent weeks.

Since the North Carolina game, (where he was threatened to lose his starting job after Tommy DeVito led the Orange to a comeback win), Dungey has averaged 324 yards of total offense. And can you believe it? It’s week 11, and he’s healthy!

Notre Dame has a top 25 defense though, so it will be a tough test for Dungey. But he has weapons.

‘Cuse’s three-headed monster

SU’s backfield of Moe Neal, Dontae Strickland and freshman Jarveon Howardwill goes up against a Notre Dame team that’s ranked No. 41 in the country in rushing defense.

Neal is averaging six yards per carry this season and has scored five touchdowns. Last week against Louisville, he ran for 159 yards on eight carries. That’s 19.9 yards per touch.

Strickland and Howard both have six touchdowns.

Not to mention, the Orange wide receiving core has been more balanced in recent weeks with Nykeim Johnson, Taj Harris and Sean Riley all stepping up alongside SU’s leading receiver Jamal Custis.

Two teams have scored more than 50 points five times this season: Alabama…and Syracuse. The Orange has one of the best offenses in the country. They can attack this Notre Dame defense.

As for the Orange’s weakness …

Syracuse ranks No. 70 in the country in the rushing defense category. Clemson’s Travis Etienne single-handedly beat SU with a 203-yard game. He’s the best running back the Orange will face this season.

The second best back they will go up against is Notre Dame’s Dexter Williams. He has rushed for 770 yards and 6 TD’s in just six games this season. Williams is averaging 128 yards per game on the ground. Had he not been suspended for the first four games of the season, Williams would likely be a Heisman candidate. He’s that good.

In order for Syracuse to pull off the upset on Saturday, the defense has to step up.

Biggest game of the millennium for SU

They have a chance to knock off an undefeated top three team on a national stage — at Yankee Stadium of all places. This is the first season in 17 years that the Syracuse Orange football team is ranked. Yet, with a victory, SU will put themselves in position to be selected for a New Year’s Six bowl.

Syracuse plays better in big games. It’s just a fact. Two years ago, when they were REALLY bad, the Orange knocked off a ranked Virginia Tech squad. The last two Clemson games speak for themselves. The other ranked team ‘Cuse played this season was NC State, who they beat in a shootout.

They will come to Yankee Stadium fired up and ready to play. I would pay big money to see Babers’ locker room speech, because it will be one for the ages.

Start spreading the news: Syracuse will beat Notre Dame.

All the pressure is on Notre Dame. They have to win to make the College Football Playoff. With a loss, they are done. Perfect season: gone. National championship hopes: gone.

Notre Dame has had several close games this season against mediocre teams. The Irish beat Ball State by eight, Vanderbilt by five, and snuck past Pitt and Northwestern. They are due for a loss.

The Orange are playing with a ton of confidence right now and will come to Yankee Stadium more fired up than this group has ever been. Dungey will go off, Neal will have a solid game, and the defense will step up. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and the Orange will embrace the national spotlight.

So give me Syracuse. See y’all at the Peach Bowl.

Avatar for Will Scott

is a contributor to The NewsHouse at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.