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Syracuse vs. Notre Dame Football Preview: Q&A With One Foot Down

Have you heard? Notre Dame is a popular football program.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

People are talking about Syracuse football this week... because they're facing No. 8 Notre Dame on ABC in primetime. Sorry, I wish things were different. But oh well: PUBLICITY!

Below, Pat Burns (who you should follow on Twitter) from SB Nation's One Foot Down, stops by to chat with us about all things Notre Dame football. On top of his responses here, you can also check out ours over there (will post link when that's live) to tell the Irish faithful everything they have to know about Syracuse.

(Because Notre Dame is a popular program to root for, we actually have two different Q&A sessions with Fighting Irish blogs going up today. This is the first of those)

First off, we have to talk about Syracuse and Notre Dame's last football meeting. I know you guys just covered it on OFD. Is there still a lot of talk about it amongst Irish fans?

Only when we’re feeling self-deprecating, which is much less often these days. That was the only game of my entire time in school at Notre Dame that I left early. Sure, I was kicked out for throwing snowballs along with 50% of the student section, but let’s just say I didn’t put up much of a fight to get out of there. The cherry on top of that game was Adrian Dantley’s son sticking it to us in the end.

We won't be offended, honest: Where do you see Syracuse when ranking the difficulty of your 2014 opponents thus far?

Thus far, I would say better than Rice & Purdue, but not as talented as Michigan (though tire fire they may be). I’m hoping that Syracuse isn’t as pumped up as Purdue was to face us, but given the venue and type of game, I’m not too confident in that thought. Terrel Hunt gives me some pause because any time you face a mobile QB who isn’t afraid to take or give a hit, it may be a long day for the defense.

Brian Kelly mentioned a dislike for national TV games the other day... that makes little sense to me, given where he coaches. How about you guys?

Coach Kelly’s comments were mostly related to the travel times and everything. It throws a wrench into travelling to games only to get back to South Bend at 3 or 4 in the morning. From a personal perspective, I recently moved to the Mountain time zone, and night games are great. I generally cook some dinner and sit down to watch the game with a nice beverage or six (depending on outcome). I don’t have to stay up late, and I still get to enjoy the game. Luckily for Coach Kelly, Notre Dame doesn’t draw too well on television so it should be rare that they are bumped to a primetime slot when they are away from home.

Everett Golson gets a lot of credit for his mobility, but I actually think his true value comes from his arm. Do you agree?

I agree 100%. He was a pass-first threat in high school and has developed much the same at ND. That being said, there have been some struggles in the running game that many believe could be eased if Brian Kelly loosened the reins on Everett Golson to keep on read options, etc. It’s very helpful to have that ability there if the time arises, but like you said, he’s a pass-first guy. Watch when he scrambles on Saturday – you’ll notice he’s always looking downfield to make a play with his arm. He doesn’t tuck the ball and take off like many other mobile QBs.

It seems Notre Dame's defense has been a pleasant surprise through three games -- what do you think makes it so accomplished?

Defensive Coordinator Brian VanGorder has done an AMAZING job at getting the young players on our defense up to speed and putting them in positions to succeed. Given the suspensions and injuries to the defense (especially in the secondary), it is amazing the cohesion and speed they are able to play with. The blitz packages and disguised coverages are something that Irish fans are not used to seeing from our previous DC, and they have added an element that really lets the young guys play loose and aggressive on that side of the ball. · If there's one Orange player -- either side of the ball -- who may cause a problem for the Irish, who might that be (in your opinion)? Definitely Terrel Hunt. It’s not super original, but everything on Syracuse’s offense runs through him. If he can make the depleted Irish secondary respect his arm enough to allow the hurry up no huddle to take some chunks of yardage, it could be a long day for the Irish defense.

Syracuse fans should be most concerned about (fill in the blank) when scouting the Fighting Irish for Saturday.

I’m sure this isn’t a big surprise to most of your readers, but on defense, they should be most concerned about Everett Golson getting rid of the ball quickly against the blitz. I expect the Orange to come out guns blazing on defense, and Golson has the ability to pick it apart if the receivers make the right hot reads. A steady diet of draws and screens will also probably cause some trouble against the aggressive defense. On offense, I think the Syracuse fans should be most concerned about Jaylon Smith. He will be a big part of the defense Saturday, and sometimes will be in two places at once (that hasn’t been scientifically refuted, so I continue to believe it). Smith will make plenty of plays that drop some jaws every game, and I expect the same this weekend.

Let's be realistic here: Can Syracuse come close to a major upset, or is this one going to be over fairly quickly?

I think Syracuse certainly can come close to an upset. The formula there is pretty simple, actually – if the Orange offense moves the ball like they did against Maryland and finds some red zone success; and the Syracuse defense gets home with some pressure against Golson, this game could be up for grabs in the 4th quarter. That being said, with a couple of quick scores from the Irish offense, this could be an extremely long day for Syracuse. I think the most likely scenario is somewhere in the middle, barring any glaring turnovers from either side. My prediction is ND 34 – Syracuse 17.

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Thanks again to Pat for taking the time! And again: Check out One Foot Down for Notre Dame thoughts and follow Pat over on Twitter.