As we countdown to kickoff in September, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each week over the summer. SU will continue its 2016 non-conference schedule when it plays Notre Dame on Oct. 1.
QUARTERBACK BATTLE: All the talk around Notre Dame football in the spring has centered around quarterbacks DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire. Zaire started the 2015 season as the Irish’s starting signal caller, but played just two games after he suffered a broken ankle against Virginia. That forced Kizer, a true freshmen, into action, and he delivered. He finished the season throwing for 2884 yards and 21 touchdowns, along with another 520 yards on the ground and 10 scores. Kizer would eventually lead the Irish to a Fiesta Bowl loss against Ohio State.
WHO TO WATCH FOR: Notre Dame will need someone to fill the shoes of Will Fuller, a dynamic wide receiver who now plays for the Houston Texans. The Irish will be looking to Torii Hunter Jr. (son of the former major league baseball player) to step into that role. The rising junior caught 28 passes for 363 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and will play a more prominent role in Brian Kelly’s offense this season despite having been drafted and signed to play baseball. The defense will be anchored by defensive lineman Isaac Rochell, who finished with 63 tackles (fifth on the team) and three sacks. A breakout season from Rochell will help offset the losses of Jaylon Smith, Joe Schmidt and Elijah Schumate, who finished one, two and three in tackles in the 2015 season.
PREDICTION: Though Notre Dame only returns eight starters from last year, Kelly’s team still should be in contention for the College Football Playoffs with the depth he has assembled during his time at South Bend. NOTRE DAME 41, SYRACUSE, 17.