Each week Charlie Weis comes into his Tuesday afternoon press conference and goes over the strengths of the opposition. Despite facing a 2-8 team that has already fired its head coach, this week was no different.
Weis is not Lou Holtz when it comes to pumping up the opposition, but he was able to make Syracuse sound like a respectable team with a legitimate chance to give the Irish trouble on Saturday. The Orange are averaging 146 rushing yards a game and 4.4 per carry.
"You better be ready to stop the run," Weis said. "You better be ready to stop the running game or you could be in for a long day at the office."
Syracuse's best player is running back Curtis Brinkley.
"Brinkley is a very good player with very good numbers. He's a returning starter, he's rushed 204 times for 1,060 yards, which is 5.2 per carry," Weis said. "You'll see two things that stand out about him very clearly, he has very good vision and he runs very hard."
"You have their Mr. Versatility in Bailey. He's a true freshman, who they line up at receiver, they line up at running back, they line up at wing," said Weis. "He's the fastest of these three guys and they do all they can to get him involved at least a few plays in the game at different spots. So, the one thing that the defense is going to have to do is identify where he is."
The offensive line has been solid in giving the backs places to go.
"Upfront they do a good job, especially as run blockers," said Weis.
But the quarterback position is one with plenty of question marks. Andrew Robinson started the year as the quarterback, but former walk-on Cameron Dantley, son of Irish hoops great Adrian Dantley, has started the past nine games for the Orange. Dantley is completing 50% of his passes for 1,117 yards and nine touchdowns, but Weis would not be surprised to see Robinson this week too.
"He's got more into the mix the last few weeks and they've both been playing," he said.
"Davis is their main guy. He's their most productive receiver. He starts at X, but then when they go to three wide receivers, he usually moves into the slot," said Weis. "Their biggest receiver is Lobdell and he's also their most physical receiver. And a guy to keep an eye on is Sales. He's a true freshman and it seems like they've been playing him more and more each week."
Defensively, the Orange have struggled, allowing over 33 points per game. Still, Weis pointed out some positive aspects of the Syracuse defense, starting with defensive ends Vincenzo Giruzzi and Jared Kimmel.
"Their two defensive ends are two totally different guys. Giruzzi is a converted linebacker, who moved to defensive end, is the smaller, faster guy," he said. "Kimmel is their bigger guy, who plays on the opposite side."
"Both of them can be disruptive, especially Jones because he's disruptive both in the run game and in the pass game," said Weis.
"He's a very, very athletic linebacker and he's their adjuster. If they decide to stay in 4-3 people, they can just adjust out and use him as their adjuster because he's a very good athlete," he said. "But they'll also bring him off the edge and put his hand on the ground some as a nickel pass rusher."
"They're solid at corner and experienced at safety," said Weis. "Holmes and Scott are very, very solid corners for them and they have two senior safeties, both Brown and Williams, who are not afraid to come up and hit you."
Special teams may be the most solid of all the units for the Orange.
"They block punts and as you all know we've had some problems in punt protection over the last month of the year. So, I think that we could see a heavy dose of punt rushes in this game," Weis said. "Also, they're very good on kickoff return, they get production on kickoff return.
"(Patrick) Shadle is their field goal kicker and he's 21 for 21 on extra points and 12 of 14 on field goals."
For the second straight week offensive coordinator Mike Haywood will miss some practice time and Weis will take over play-calling responsibilities for the next two weeks.
"Mike Haywood is going to be missing some practice for personal reasons. I support these personal reasons, but he'll be missing some practice again," said Weis. "With that being said, followed up by a short week next week, for the rest of the regular season I'll be handling the play-calling on offense."
Weis also downgraded cornerback Terrail Lambert from questionable to doubtful, meaning that Robert Blanton and Gary Gray will see plenty of time again. Linebacker Brian Smith will be out with a knee injury that should give Toryan Smith, Scott Smith and Steve Quinn opportunities at linebacker.
A healthy David Grimes along with Rob Parris will try to make up for the loss of receiver Michael Floyd, but George West, who had his knee scoped a couple of weeks back will not be available. Also, don't expect to see freshman receivers Deion Walker or John Goodman see anytime this late in the season.
"We would do everything we could to not have that happen at this time," Weis said.
Despite having a regular season finale with Southern Cal looming after the Syracuse game, Notre Dame does not see this game as a potential trap game.
"I think the last home game could hardy ever be put in that category," said Weis. "It wouldn't make a difference who you were playing. You have a ton of reasons to play well, a ton of reasons, but most importantly because it's the last one for those seniors."