(8) Notre Dame (3-0) vs. Syracuse (2-1) (ET)

GAME NOTES: The eighth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish get back to work on
Saturday evening, as they take on the Syracuse Orange at MetLife Stadium in
East Rutherford, NJ.

Brian Kelly’s Irish enjoyed a well-earned bye last week after opening the
season with three straight wins over Rice (48-17), Michigan (31-0) and Purdue

Scott Shafer’s Orange began the 2014 season with back-to-back wins over
Villanova (27-26) and Central Michigan (40-3), but enter this tilt following
their first loss of the season, a 34-20 setback to former ACC-foe Maryland
last weekend.

Shafer knows the importance of this game for his team.

“We’ve got a great game coming up in the Meadowlands against a great, top-10
Notre Dame,” said Shafer. “This is why you coach the game and this is why
these kids play the game.”

This marks the seventh all-time meeting between these two teams but the first
since 2008. The series is all tied up at 3-3.

The Irish are back in the national title hunt thanks in large part to the
return of talented signal caller Everett Golson. Two years ago, Golson was
under center as the Irish made it all the way to the National Championship
Game, but that was more as a game manager for a team that beat foes up
defensively. This season, Golson has evolved into a Heisman candidate with his
early play.

The junior leads an offense that is generating 418.0 ypg, as he has completed
64.6 percent of his passes, for 780 yards and seven TDs. He has added four
more scores on the ground and has yet to turn the ball over.

There are no household names at the other skill positions, but wideouts Will
Fuller (19 catches, 225 yards, 3 TDs) and Amir Carlisle (11 catches, 117
yards, 2 TDs) have performed well. However, Carlisle is not available for this
game due to injury.

The ground game is averaging a modest 158.0 ypg, with four different players
splitting the workload, including Golson (29 carries). Tarean Folston has the
most carries (30), with Greg Bryant (22 carries) and Cam McDaniel (25 carries)
not far behind.

The Irish had their best defensive game since that 2012 squad when they shut
out the Wolverines a couple of weeks ago. That has certainly aided the overall
numbers, as the team is allowing just 10.3 ppg (third nationally) this year on
just 315.3 ypg (24th nationally). Big plays have come on a regular basis, with
the team already collecting nine takeaways in three games.

Senior linebacker Joe Schmidt leads the charge with a team-best 23 tackles. He
also has one interception and one forced fumble to his credit. Sophomore
linebacker Jaylon Smith (22 tackles) is right behind, with a team-high 4.0 TFL
and one sack. Junior safety Elijah Shumate (18 tackles, 1 INT) headlines the
play in secondary and junior end Romeo Okwara (15 tackles, 2.5 sacks) does the
same up front.

Big plays did in the Orange against Maryland, as the Terrapins used an
interception returned for a score, a 90-yard TD pass and a blocked punt to
distance themselves early and put Syracuse in a hole it couldn’t climb out of.

Syracuse rushed for an astounding 370 yards in the game and had 589 yards of
total offense but still came out on the losing end. Quarterback Terrel Hunt
paced the team with 156 yards and two scores, marking the first SU quarterback
to rush for over 100 yards since Donovan McNabb against Miami (1997). Tailback
Prince-Tyson Gulley was productive as well, with 138 yards on just 14 carries.

The ground game is now generating 265.0 ypg for Syracuse (19th nationally).
Hunt paces the team with 273 yards and five TDs. Gulley has been strong as
well with 251 yards and one score.

Hunt hasn’t played bad when dropping back to pass either, as he has completed
58.7 percent of his passes thus far, for 488 yards and one TD. Jarrod West (8
rec, 133 yds) and Ashton Broyld (11 rec, 125 yds) are the top options in the
passing game.

The Syracuse defense played well against Maryland and has done so on the year
for the most part. The Orange are allowing just 325.0 ypg overall and has been
very active with their pass rush, with 12 sacks through three games.

Senior linebacker Cameron Lynch has been a force all over the field, leading
the team in tackles (30), TFL (5.5) and sacks (4.5), with a safety to his
credit as well. Senior safety Darius Kelly is a distant second in terms of
tackles (18). Senior end Micah Robinson (10 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 1.5 sacks) makes
plays up front.

Brian Kelly is familiar with a Shafer-coached defense.

“They’re a pain in the butt! He does a very good job of — you know, they live
on taking the football away. They live on big plays. If you look at what they
do defensively, they’ve got an answer for virtually everything. And he’s an
experienced defensive coordinator, and with Chuck Bullough with him, who is
experienced in his background, both those guys working together, make for
you’re going to earn everything you get and make for a long day.”

The Orange aren’t going to bow down and let the Irish roll to victory, but the
difference maker on the field will be Golson. He has transformed into one of
the nation’s best players and will do his part in keeping Notre Dame perfect
on the year this week.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Notre Dame 34, Syracuse 20