Syracuse heads into one of its biggest matchups in recent history, as it plays No. 3 Notre Dame at a neutral field at Yankee Stadium on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Brad Bierman and Wes Cheng gave their predictions for the game.
BRAD BIERMAN (Season Predictions, 8-2): Ah, there’s nothing like a good old fashioned starting quarterback discussion. Right, Orange Nation?
Wasn’t it not even a month ago that we were debating Eric Dungey vs. Tommy DeVito before Syracuse faced North Carolina State? We all know how that’s turned out, a four game winning streak under Dungey’s continued excellence his senior season heading into Saturday’s Notre Dame game at Yankee Stadium (2:30 p.m. ET – NBC/Sirius XM).
Now it’s the Irish that have been juggling quarterbacks with Brandon Wimbush the season starter, replaced by Ian Book in week four, only to have Book suffer a rib injury two weeks ago against Northwestern. Wimbush led Notre Dame to its route of Florida State last week with a three touchdown output, but Book is expected to be cleared to start Saturday.
No matter the ND quarterback, he’ll have a bevy of talented receivers, so the Orange defense will have to continue its improved play as the season’s progressed by clamping down in the secondary and key on the Irish running game which has percolated since Dexter Williams returned from a university-imposed four game suspension to start the year (he ran for 202 yards against FSU).
For Syracuse, there’s no time like the present. At the end of Dino Babers third season this week brings the confluence of an 8-2 record under Dungey’s tutelage, the name Notre Dame, the site Yankee Stadium and the chance to again make national waves. No. 12 Syracuse 30, No. 3 Notre Dame 28. Let the College Football Playoff chaos begin.
WES CHENG (Season Predictions, 7-3): The chatter about Notre Dame has (rightfully) centered around its quarterback controversy with Wimbush and Book each having a case to be the starting quarterback.
Book has been surgical with his accuracy, completing 74.5 percent of his passes with a touchdown to interception ratio of 15:4. Wimbush lost his job three games into the season, but relieved an injured book against Florida State on Saturday, throwing for 130 yards and three touchdowns. But prior to that game, he had thrown just one touchdown to three interceptions.
Either quarterback will present difficulties for the Syracuse defense.
Away from that controversy, the Orange has another looming issue: Dexter Williams. We all know that SU has struggled to stop the run (see: losses to Clemson and Pitt) and its defense ranks 74th in the country.
Williams’ numbers are definitely above average—770 yards on 113 carries and 10 touchdowns. But consider that the Fighting Irish has used a running back by committee because Williams was suspended the first four games of the season because of an undisclosed violation of team rules. That should make SU fans shudder at the thought of Williams running downhill.
Syracuse has struggled against strong running teams all season, and that will prove to be the difference in a narrow, closely contested 35-28 loss for Syracuse.