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Syracuse vs. Notre Dame football preview: Q&A with

BONUS opponent preview!

Notre Dame v Air Force Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are a popular team, and that means a lot of different places write about them on the internet. Earlier in the week, we spoke with SB Nation’s One Foot Down about the Irish. Today, we chat with and dive into some different questions around Saturday’s game. Oh, and I also hopped on Rakes of Mallow’s podcast yesterday to discuss the game as well. Quite the busy week...

Below, UHND’s Frank Vitovich provides some Irish perspective before the Syracuse Orange clash with Notre Dame. We also answered some questions over there, so check those out as well.

The ACC's grant of rights were extended even further in July. Is Notre Dame ever going to join for football? Or are we just going to do this whole awkward arrangement for another two decades?

Notre Dame will cling to football independence as long as it possibly can. I don't see them joining a conference unless absolutely forced to do so for playoff purposes. With the NBC deal in place and all of the benefits Notre Dame has as an independent, there really is no reason for them to do so. A few years ago when it looked like we were headed for Super Conferences" I thought there was a chance that could force Notre Dame into a conference, but that never panned out and if I had to bet, I would bet Notre Dame is still an independent in 20 years.

Brian Kelly was down on the entire team following the loss to Duke. Would you say the whole roster is at fault for Notre Dame's rough start, or would you pinpoint a specific area?

The defense obviously has been the main source of problems for Notre Dame but there is plenty of blame to go around and there really isn't any single position group that has really excelled for the Irish. The offensive line has been pretty unsteady and didn't open up room for the running backs the last two weeks. The wide receivers have made some big plays but contributed to three killer turnovers the last two weeks. Deshone Kizer is in a similar situation where he's made a lot of big plays and built up a good deal of hype but turnovers have still been a problem for him this year.

All that said, the offense is scoring a lot of points and with an even average defense, Notre Dame is probably 4-0 instead of 1-3 right now. There isn't a single problem with the defense though -- all three levels have contributed to where they currently stand as a group. They aren't making many negative plays in terms of sacks and turnovers and they are missing tackles at alarming rate. That's what is most concerning as a Notre Dame fan — I can't sit here and say, if Notre Dame could just patch its secondary or shore up its offensive line they would be set. There are a lot of holes for Brian Kelly and his staff to fill and not a lot of time to do so.

The Fighting Irish's schedule is far from easy the rest of the way. Is this a bowl team?

On paper, there is no reason that this should even be debatable. On paper, Notre Dame should have won every game this year though (they've been favored by at least five point in every game. To be bowl eligible Notre Dame needs to find five more wins with the following games left: at Syracuse, at NC State, vs. Stanford, vs. Miami, at Navy, at Army (San Antonio), vs. Virginia Tech and at USC. The way Notre Dame is currently playing, I can't confidently say there's five wins in those seven games.

Assuming a loss to Stanford at this point, Notre Dame would need to go 5-2 against those other teams. In the pre-season I thought Michigan State and Stanford were the only games the Irish could potentially drop. Now, I'd say pretty much each opponent outside of Army & Navy have a chance to knock off Notre Dame.

Notre Dame was in a similar spot in 2010 during Brian Kelly's first year though and ripped off wins against a ranked Utah team and on the road against USC to sneak into a bowl. Kelly seems to coach his best when his back is against the wall though so I'd say that Notre Dame will still be a bowl team in 2016.

Side note: writing that was a bit therapeutic for this hurting Notre Dame fan.

What are you expecting from Greg Hudson's defense that Brian VanGorder could not get out of them?

If Greg Hudson can help the Notre Dame defense simply tackle better, all Notre Dame fans would be thrilled. Based on Brian Kelly's comments this week though, Hudson sounds like he may almost be a co-defensive coordinator with Kelly. Notre Dame's head coach is in full on hands on mode with the Notre Dame defense right now.

In his weekly presser, Kelly stated that he has simplified the defense and will be rotating in more players than they had been playing before when Vangorder was controlling the defensive rotations. He mentioned the players were getting overly taxed, but the Notre Dame defense hasn't exactly been running out of gas. The third quarter -- specifically right after half time — in particular has been a nightmare for Notre Dame so that felt a bit like grasping.

Tuned into Syracuse at all this year? What do you think of the new, up-tempo offense?

I haven't caught any Syracuse games live but have seen the highlights and Amba Etta Tawo scares the hell out of me. The uptempo offense worries me too. Notre Dame has been prone to some really bad stretches of football where they let the opposition run off a lot of points before they shake it off. After jumping out to a 7-0 lead against Texas, the Longhorns went on a 31-7 run to build a 17 point third quarter lead. Notre Dame can roaring back with 21 straight to take a brief lead but that run killed Notre Dame.

Against Michigan State, Notre Dame again held a 7-0 lead before letting the Spartans rip off 36 straight. Notre Dame finally woke up and went on a 21-0 run other own but they dug too deep a hole. Last week Notre Dame jumped out to a 14-0 lead just five minutes into the game before Duke went on a 28-7 run to take a 28-21 lead in the second half.

So a wide receiver on a record pace with an uptempo offense capable of going on runs of their own has me more than worried this weekend.

Can the Orange pull off an upset if they lure you into a shootout? Is there any way you see Syracuse winning this game?

After watching Notre Dame get into a mini shootout against Duke and losing at home, it wouldn't surprise me at all if this one turned into a shootout as well and if it does, Syracuse can certainly win this game. Notre Dame's defense is really in disarray right now and firing a defensive coordinator mid-season could end up making things worse before they get better.

Notre Dame has also struggled mightily against uptempo offenses over the past three seasons, Brian Vangorder's defense looked legit in 2014 before North Carolina went uptempo and exposed it. Since then, Notre Dame has barely been able to slow down uptempo offenses, let alone strop them. In the season opener Texas started a true freshman with a new offensive coordinator and they racked up over 500 yards of offense on Notre Dame.

Prediction: What happens in this one?

Honestly, this was one of the games in the pre-season that I figured would be one of the easier games given Syracuse is under a first year head coach and had a lot to fix. I thought Duke would be an easy game though too. Notre Dame has a lot and a new interim DC and Brian Kelly taking overthe defense won't fix it all during the season. In the end, I think Notre Dame's offense will outscore Syracuse and Notre Dame will hold on for a close victory.

There is one thing I am certain of though - BET THE OVER.

Notre Dame 49, Syracuse 38


Thanks again to Frank for taking the time out to answer these. And be sure to follow UHND on Twitter, and head on over to the site to read more about Notre Dame.