Notre Dame 2014 Opponent Preview: Syracuse

We’ve had quite a bit of a break since our last Notre Dame opponent preview. The way I see it, Notre Dame has a bye week before Syracuse, so I’m completely justified in taking a break!

Anyways, Syracuse will be the first ACC opponent that the Irish will face as ND eases into the scheduling relationship with the ACC. While technically an away game, Syracuse will be hosting the Irish at a neutral site, MetLife Stadium. Depending on the turnout, this could very well be a home crowd for the Irish.

Let’s take a look at what the first of our ACC brethren will offer.

Previous Opponent Previews:


Coach Scott Shafer (2nd year, 7-6)
Conference ACC
Record vs. ND 3-3
2013 Record 7-6 (4-4)
2013 Bowl Texas Bowl vs Minnesota
(W, 21-17)
2013 S.O.S (Sagarin) 57
2013 F/+ Rank 75


Returning Starters 8 (1 QB, 0 RB, 3 WR, 0 TE, 4 OL)
Returning OL Starts 78
2013 Rushing Yards/Game (Rank) 194.8 (38)
2013 Passing Yards/Game (Rank) 182.0 (102)
2013 Total Yards/Game (Rank) 376.8 (85)
2013 Points/Game (Rank) 22.7 (98)
2013 Offense F/+ Rank 83

Eight returning starters and 78 returning O-line starts should immediately jump off the page. The problem though is that they are returning a hit or miss offense.

Make no mistake, Syracuse has a solid rushing attack. If they are allowed to gash the Irish, it could be a very long day in the New Jersey.

In 2013, Terrel Hunt won the starting QB job a couple games into the season. Hunt was the second leading rusher on the Orange in 2013 with 610 yards, 7 TDs, and 4.7 yards/carry (leading rusher RB Jerome Smith took his 953 yards, 12 TDs, and 4.6 yards/carry to the NFL).

However, his rushing ability definitely made the bigger impact as his passing numbers (61.2% completion rate, 1638 yards, 10 TDs, 8 INTs) were far from impressive.

Much like playing Navy, if the Irish can force the Orange into passing situations, they should have the upper-hand.

While I don’t expect Hunt to have the same level of troubles in his passing game this season, I don’t expect things to get that much better for the Orange.

One other note to consider with this offense: they are a fast-paced, no huddle offense. This will likely be the first time the Irish defense will see such an offense and the extra preparation time in the bye week should help.


Returning Starters 7 (3 DL, 2 LB, 2 DB)
2013 Rushing Yards/Game (Rank) 137.4 (24)
2013 Passing Yards/Game (Rank) 229.8 (63)
2013 Total Yards/Game (Rank) 367.2 (33)
2013 Points/Game (Rank) 25.4(56)
2013 Defense F/+ Rank 63

Again, Syracuse returns a very experienced unit into the 2014 season. And once again, I’m not really convinced that’s going to help them much.

While they ranked fairly well on raw yardage and rated mediocre in F/+, when they faced an offense with a pulse in 2013, things got ugly:

Opponent  Points Allowed Total Yards Rushing Yards Passing Yards
Northwestern 48 581 206 375
Clemson 49 624 156 468
Georgia Tech 56 482 394 88
Florida State 59 523 225 298

Like I said, ugly.

To add on to that, keep in mind that the Orange have also lost Jay Bromley and Marquis Spruill who were the top performers for Syracuse on the D-line and LB corps respectively. To add on to that issue, one of the DT replacements, John Raymon, may not play in 2014 due to a knee injury last season.

Despite the gains in experience, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bit of regression for this defensive unit in 2014. Losing the top two in your front seven is not an easy thing to overcome (just ask ND how much harder defense got without Te’o and an injured Nix).

That’s a whole lot of question marks for this unit. With Golson having an extra week off to prepare, I like his chances.

What to Expect

The last time these two teams met was the infamous snow ball game in 2008 that ND lost 24-23. It’s the same game that Te’o left early from (and somehow we still managed to land him) and strapped Charlie Weis to the hotseat.

Syracuse will start their season off with a slate of Villanova, Central Michigan, and Maryland. Notre Dame will likely be their first tough opponent before their ACC schedule starts in earnest.

With a bye week to prepare and a game that will likely be home away from home, the Irish should have no issues with a team that is still trying to find their stride and identity.

Of course, that inevitably means that Syracuse will pull something out of their hat early to scare the hell out of all of us. With their fast paced offense, I wouldn’t be surprised if ND takes a quarter or two to get their legs back under them after the early bye.

Despite an early scare, I still see the Irish getting a rather convincing victory. Just be prepared to have a heart attack or two in the first half.

Study Your Enemy

Here are the Syracuse sites that I’ve dug up around the Internet:

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