Syracuse is ranked No. 107 in rush defense. Teams are averaging 5.3 yards per rush against the Orange defense, and 209 rushing yards per game. The Irish showed marked improvement in the running game last Saturday, so they'll likely want to attack Syracuse on the ground again this week. They'll need a solid running game to have any chance of beating USC the following week, so working on the ground game in this game would be a good idea.
Syracuse also gives up some big plays in the passing game. The opposition has scored 23 touchdowns through the air in 10 games against this defense, and the Orange defense has just 10 sacks on the season. Notre Dame should be able to throw pretty effectively against Syracuse if they have to as well.
Saturday's game should be a game about building confidence. Notre Dame needs to build some confidence heading into Los Angeles next week. This is the type of game where they can do that, both in the running game, and giving struggling quarterback Jimmy Clausen some easy throws to build his confidence as well.
The Orange aren't much better on offense. They've scored just 21 touchdowns all season and average just 18 points per game. They probably run the football the best, rushing for 146 yards per game on the ground, and senior Curtis Brinkley is the guy who does the most damage, averaging 109 yards per game. Brinkley had a streak of five straight games of over 100 yards rushing, and did so against teams like Pitt, West Virginia, South Florida and Louisville, so he is a guy who can make some plays.
However, besides Brinkley, this Syracuse offense is below average, and Notre Dame shouldn't have too much trouble stopping them.
The game plan should be simple. Stop Brinkley and the rest of the Syracuse offense will struggle making plays against an improving Irish defense.
There's isn't much of an "X factor" this week other than if the Orange show up for the game. Even if they do come prepared to play, the Irish shouldn't struggle to win the game. If they don't show up, Notre Dame should beat them fairly easy. I do expect the Irish to show up ready to play as this is senior week, and Notre Dame usually plays well in their final home game of the season.
Mike Frank Prediction:
I expect the Irish to win this game pretty easily. Notre Dame will likely come out running the football again on Saturday, and they should have solid success doing so. I do expect Notre Dame to throw some on Saturday to build some confidence in a struggling passing game. The Irish should have success both running and throwing.
I also don't see Syracuse posing much of a threat to the Irish on the defensive side of the ball. Notre Dame stopped Navy's potent rushing attack, so they shouldn't have much problem with Syracuse.
Notre Dame: 35 Syracuse: 7