Teams: No. 12 Syracuse Orange (8-2, 5-2) vs. No. 3 Notre Dame (10-0, N/A)
Date & Time: Saturday, Nov. 17 at 2:30 p.m. ET
Location: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, N.Y.
TV/Streaming: NBC/NBC Sports Live
Radio: Cuse.com, TK 99/105, WAER 88.3, SiriusXM: 129 (home), 205 (away)
Notre Dame blog: One Foot Down
Rivalry: 5-3, Notre Dame
Current Streak: 2, Notre Dame
First Meeting: The 1914 Notre Dame football team was coming off of a 48-6 whopping of the Carlisle Indian School. Meanwhile, Syracuse had previously beaten Carlisle, and its coach Pop Warner, 24-3, in Buffalo. So it looked as though the last game of the ‘14 season could be something of a tossup. Alas, a tossup it was not, as Syracuse lost to the Irish, 20-0.
Last Meeting: The world was a different place back in 2016. If you can believe it, Syracuse football wasn’t a top-12 team. I know, crazy right? But two years ago the legend known as Dino Babers was in his first season as Syracuse savior and his team then was not quite ready for the spotlight.
In what was one of those infamous “home games in New York City” for the Orange (2-2 overall at the time), the MetLife Stadium scoreboard got quite the workout, especially in the first half. After the first 15 minutes alone, Notre Dame led, 23-13. The points explosion continued all game long for the Irish, who walked out with a 50-33 victory. Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer was a big reason for the offensive success, as he threw for a career-high 471 yards and three TDs.
What’s interesting in the week prior to the game, Irish coach Brian Kelly fired his defensive coordinator. At the time, Notre Dame had lost three of its four games to start 2016 and it looked like SU, for as shaky as it was, might have been able to keep pace. That didn’t happen in the second half, though, as the Orange could only muster six total points.
Head Coaches: SU: Dino Babers (3rd year, 16-18); Notre Dame: Brian Kelly (9th year, 79-34 at Notre Dame; 132-56 overall FCS)
Coach Bio: Brian Kelly has been a head football coach since 1991. That’s a long time ago, but what’s really noteworthy here is that Kelly is only 57-years old. The then-29-year old first got his start as head man at Grand Valley State. He stayed there until jumping up in class to take over Central Michigan in 2004. Just a few seasons later, Kelly struck while the iron was hot and moved on to the Big East and Cincinnati in 2006, where he stayed until Notre Dame came calling three years later.
If you include his time at Grand Valley, Kelly has won 229 games, and, even more impressively, has had just two losing seasons in that entire time span (not including NCAA vacated games, because that’s just stupid). It has the feeling that Kelly is always on the hot seat in South Bend, and maybe he is because of the pressure associated with the job, but the numbers indicate that he is one of the best in the business not named Saban or Meyer.
As leader of the Irish program, Kelly has won 10 games three times and once again has Notre Dame on the cusp of a major bowl game or Playoff berth. One of the issues fans might have is that Kelly is just 4-3 in bowl games.
Last Year: Kelly was certainly experiencing some heat in the buttock region of his chair last fall. Notre Dame finished 2016 with a 4-8 record, its worst since 2007, and it experienced plenty of on and off-the-field turmoil.
“All” Kelly and the Irish did last fall was rebound by winning 10 games, defeating four top-25 foes, and winning the Citrus Bowl by taking frustrations out nationally ranked LSU. The three losses? Two were on the road against top-10 teams and the other came in early September against Georgia, which went on to play for the national championship.
In eight of the 10 total wins in ‘17, Notre Dame was able to score at least 30 points. The Irish weren’t on the level of an Alabama or even Clemson, but last year’s outfit certainly led the way for the successes of 2018.
Last Game: Poor, poor Florida State. The Noles went to South Bend looking to create magic from yesteryear. Hoping to grab Doc Brown and Marty and hop into the Delorean and head back in time. But Bobby Bowden and Charlie Ward and Danny Kanell (and his turtleneck) aren’t walking through that door. The Irish, lovers of the past as well, laid waste to FSU Saturday night, 42-13.
Playing without injured quarterback Ian Book, Brandon Wimbush scored three touchdowns for Kelley’s Irish. The former starter Wimbush was far from perfect, throwing two picks, but he did enough and allowed for running back Dexter Williams to do this thing. The senior rushed for 202 yard on just 20 carries in the cakewalk win.
“Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: Williams is coming off the 200-yard performance against Florida State. And we all know how Syracuse has struggled to stop the run this season, although the defense seemingly has gotten a bit better against it over the last few weeks. Still, stopping him will be of high priority for Brian Ward’s defense on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Book is back after missing the game against the Seminoles with a rib injury. In just over six games this season, the junior QB has thrown for 1,824 yards and 15 TDs to just four interceptions. Against Navy and Northwestern, his last two games before the injury took him out, Book accounted for 673 yards and four TDs combined. He’s going to be a major issue for Syracuse, especially if its secondary remains banged up.
If Syracuse Wins: Look out, Fiesta Bowl (or Peach Bowl!) here comes the Orange! A win would vault SU into the top 10, likely top eight, and would all but cement a New Year’s Day Bowl invitation as well. Of course, the result from the following week at Boston College could still be a factor.
If Syracuse Loses: So long as Syracuse doesn’t get embarrassed, a loss in the Bronx on Saturday won’t do too much in terms of negative impact. Surely, the Orange would drop a bit in all of the major polls, but SU would remain in the top-20. The one near-guarantee is that a defeat might (MIGHT) just make the Pinstripe Bowl the only December option.
Fun Fact: Greg “GERG” Robinson, a man who took Syracuse football outback and beat it over the head with a shovel and then buried it near the lilac bushes but told the kids it had ran away in the middle of the night, has one positive claim to Syracuse fame. Otherwise, there were many disturbing actions Robinson took during his reign of terror.
In late November 2008, Syracuse University officials decided Robinson’s crimes against football were too much. So the school relieved Robinson of his duties and freed the
hostages fans from their own prisons. What was even crazier than how far Syracuse had fallen was the fact that the Orange and Robinson went into South Bend the following weekend and walked out with a 24-23 victory.
All-time, Robinson is only credited for five wins during his football killing spree in central New York. One of those victories (the final one) is against Notre Dame.