Game Forecast: Syracuse Week

Irish Eyes takes a look at Notre Dame's (6-4) final home game of the season this weekend against Syracuse (2-8).

 Notre Dame vs. Syracuse
Fighting Irish   Orange
 
Saturday, November 22nd
Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend , Ind.
2:30 EST
NBC


 
 

  On Offense:

 Offense '08 Rank Per Game ND Defense '08 Rank Per Game
Rushing Offense #65 146.20 Rushing Defense #57 136.70
Pass Offense # 112 125.20 Pass Defense #22 179.70
Pass Eff. # 112 96.75 Pass Eff. #11 101.46
Total Offense # 114 271.40 Total Defense #31 316.40
Scoring Offense # 109 18.30 Scoring Defense #33 20.50

Threat(s):Running back Curtis Brinkley has been the only consistent player on the Orange's offense.

The lowly Greg Robinson era has just two more games at Syracuse, as Athletic Director Dr. Daryl Gross announced his firing on Sunday. Orange fans had already been looking forward for weeks to Connecticut head coach Randy Edsall or somebody else taking over the program in 2009.

Since Robinson has taken over at Syracuse, his team is just 9-36 overall, 3-24 in the Big East, including this past weekend's 39-14 home loss to alum Edsall and his Connecticut team. It was Robinson's last game inside the Carrier Dome.

It would take Lou Holtz's best efforts to make this sound like a tough game for Notre Dame, but if Robinson's players want to give him a nice going away present, a win in South Bend would certainly be a good one.

For that to happen, Curtis Brinkley is going to have to have a big game, against a Notre Dame defense that has really played well all season, especially the past two weeks.

Against Connecticut, the 5-foot-9, 203-pound Brinkley carried 21 times for 94 yards and a touchdown, and in the process, became the eighth player in program history to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing. He has 1,060 yards for the year, with road games against the Irish and Cincinnati remaining.

Achilles Heal(s): Everything but Brinkley.

With the exception of Washington and maybe San Diego State, Syracuse is easily the worst team Notre Dame plays this season. Starting quarterback Cameron Dantley struggles to make plays, the undersized offensive line has had troubles protecting, and the receivers aren't big-play threats.

Robinson used two quarterbacks against Connecticut, and though both were horrible, the same could hold true this coming weekend.

The 6-foot-1, 218-pound Dantley is constantly running for his life, as the Orange rank 96th nationally in sacks allowed. The senior has completed just 102-of-203 passes for 1,117 yards and nine scores. He has been intercepted four times. Andrew Robinson, a more mobile quarterback, could also get some snaps. The junior is 18-of-45 passing for 132 yards with three interceptions.

Against the Huskies, Dantley was 4-of-16 for 38 yards and one interception, and Robinson was 2-of-7 for 13 yards and two picks.

The offensive line is one of the smallest Notre Dame has seen all fall with the exception of Navy. Left tackle Tucker Baumbach is the biggest player at 6-foot-5, 307 pounds.

With the longest pass play of the season going for 38 yards, Syracuse has no downfield passing attack.

Miscellaneous: Syracuse is converting on just around 30 percent of its third downs this season. Kicker Patrick Shadle has been a bright spot, connecting on 12-of-14 attempts. The Orange suffered a big loss before the season, when receiver Mike Williams, who was perhaps the team's beat player, was suspended because of an academic issue. Donte Davis is the team's leading receiver with 27 catches for 278 yards and a touchdown. In their last two games, the Orange have been held to just 315 yards of total offense combined.

 On Defense:

 Defense '08 Rank Per Game ND Offense '08 Rank Per Game
Rushing Defense # 107 209.20 Rushing Offense #84 127.00/td>
Pass Defense # 72 213.80 Pass Offense #28 244.50
Pass Eff. # 105 144.97 Pass Eff. #54 126.05
Total Defense # 104 423.00 Total Offense #51 371.50
Scoring Defense #106 33.90 Scoring Offense #68 24.60


Threat(s):Hard to find any.

When a team ranks near the bottom nationally against the run (107th), in pass-efficiency defense (105th), and tackles for loss (109th), there isn't a whole lot of bright spots. Whatever Charlie Weis' game plan is, and whoever is calling the plays for the Irish, shouldn't have a tough time against Syracuse's terrible defense.

Middle linebacker Jake Flaherty leads the team with 67 tackles, which is also good for eighth in the Big East. Defensive tackle Nick Santiago has a team-high three sacks. Safety Bruce Williams leads the team with two interceptions.

Achilles Heal(s):Everything.

Just read the first paragraph in the threats. Syracuse has had a problem stopping the run and the pass. Seven times this year, the Orange have given up over 30 points, and are allowing 33.90 points per game.

Syracuse has only sacked the opposing quarterback 10 times, and are always facing tough down-and-distance situations.

Miscellaneous: Teams are nearly converting 60 percent of their third-down opportunities against Syracuse. Punter Rob Long has been one of the best in the nation. He ranks 3rd nationally at 45.96 yards per boot. He's normally punting from deep in his team's own territory. Kick returners Mike Holmes (23.66 avg.) and Max Suter (21.04) are a pretty good combination. Syracuse has scored just 20 fourth-quarter points all season.

Game Notes: This is the sixth-ever meeting between Notre Dame and Syracuse. The Irish lead the series with a 3-2-1 record. The Vegas line has Notre Dame opening as -point favorites. Charlie Weis' record against Syracuse is 1-0. Greg Robinson's record against Notre Dame is 0-1.

Prediction: Notre Dame 34, Syracuse 15: Much like they did against Navy, James Aldridge, Robert Hughes and Armando Allen will have good games against a struggling Orange defense. Jimmy Clausen finally gets back on track with a solid game heading into USC, and the Irish virtually lock up a spot in the Gator Bowl with their seventh win of the season.


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