If this were basketball, and it were the early-Nineties, Notre Dame’s recent performance against Syracuse would be somewhat understandable, for the Irish are 2-2 against ‘Cuse as we approach the fifth meeting of the teams since 2003 and the second-straight at MetLife Stadium.
Take everything you now about Syracuse and throw it away. Except for the horrible colors and the ridiculous mascot. For whatever reason, those things are staying. But under first year head coach Dino Babers, the ‘Cuse is looking to turn just about everything around after a 4-8 finish last season. Babers could be just the man to do it. He was an assistant at UCLA (2003-2007) then Baylor (2008-2011) before becoming the head coach at Eastern Illinois (2012-2014) and then Bowling Green (2015). He is only the fourth coach in the history of the Ohio Valley Conference to take a team from last- to first-place in a single season.
With all that time in Waco, you can bet Coach Babers knows two things: how to run a potent offense and how not to lay siege to a compound of heavily-armed religious separatists. Syracuse is loaded at the receiver position with height and speed and they only lose one player from last season. This should have Babers salivating. The problem is how to get them the football. While The Orange return a lot of experience at quarterback, it is problematically spread across several players, to include last season’s FIFTH-string QB, Zack Mahoney. At running back, true sophomore Jordan Fredericks posted ‘Cuse’s lone 100-yard effort last season and he should thrive under Babers, who knows a thing or two out of getting production out of the running game. Still, if you can’t protect the QB and open holes, you can’t play offensive football and Syracuse may have some issues up front, as they lose four veteran OL-players with a combined 115 starts.
Take everything you know about Syracuse defensively and throw it out. And honestly, if you know anything about Syracuse’s defensive scheme from 2015, you need to get a life. Anyway, Syracuse are ditching their prior defensive scheme, in which they relied upon aggressive corners, blind luck and foul weather, for the Tampa-2 scheme, in which they probably don’t have the talent or experience, yet, to master. You know, though, that it’ll all come together on October 1.
The ‘Cuse only return eight starters on defense, but they’ll be deep at some position-groups. For example, they bring back nine of ten defensive backs and five of their top six linebackers. On the line, where they need to be dominant if their scheme is to have any success, they may not in fact have the experience necessary, though they could get a lift out of Delaware graduate transfer, Gabe Sherrod. Sherrod started twenty games for the Blue Hens and has thirteen sacks.
Your guess is literally as good as mine. The Orange are a puzzle, with lots of losses on either side of the ball, fifty guys with experience at quarterback, and a new coach. They open against Colgate, so you figure they’re coming out of that game with a W and cleaner teeth. But after that, who knows? They host Louisville and USF, neither of which ever bothered the Irish much, right? Then, off to UConn, where they face Bob Diaco and his hair. Then the Irish at a neutral site, e.g. MetLife Stadium. This should be an easy W for Notre Dame, but what the hell do I know?