- Syracuse has scored at least 37 points in five straight games against weak ACC defenses, but the Notre Dame defense—which hasn't allowed 30 points in a game all season—presents a challenge more similar to what the Orange saw against Clemson.
Syracuse Orange vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-9.5)
Sat. 11/16, 2:30 p.m. ET at Yankee Stadium
Three things to know before betting on Syracuse-Notre Dame:
1. With a perfect 10-0 record (5-4-1 against the spread), Notre Dame is almost assured a spot in the College Football Playoff if it can win its final two regular season games against Syracuse and USC. The first of those matchups will come this Saturday afternoon against the Orange at Yankee Stadium as part of Notre Dame's Shamrock Series, a near-annual game (it skipped last year) in which the Fighting Irish play a "home" game at a neutral field such as AT&T Stadium in Dallas or Fenway Park in Boston. Notre Dame has gone a perfect 8-0 in the Shamrock Series to this point (5-3 ATS), having won those eight games by an average of 21.5 points.
This week's game against Syracuse is one of the toughest on ND's schedule this year, as the Orange have climbed all the way up to No. 12 in the AP Top 25 on the strength of an 8-2 record (7-3 ATS). One of Cuse's losses was a near upset of Clemson on the road in late September, and its best win was a 51-41 takedown of NC State at home in late October. Syracuse suffered defeats in its recent matchups with the Irish in 2014 and 2016, with the Irish covering as road favorites in both games.
2. That 51-41 win over NC State was characteristic of Syracuse's recent success. In the five games the Orange have played since losing at Clemson, they've scored no fewer than 37 points in a game, gone over 50 points twice and compiled a 4-1 record. On the season, they're seventh in the nation in scoring offense at 44.4 points per game.
But upon closer inspection, the reputation of this offense might be a tad inflated. Eric Dungey is a big-name ACC quarterback thanks to his longevity as Cuse's starting QB, but his numbers aren't elite even in a down year for the conference. He ranks sixth in the ACC in completion percentage (60.4), sixth in yards per attempt (7.2) and seventh in passer rating (133.2). Those are respectable numbers, but not what the hype around this unit would suggest. The offense as a whole is only 59th in the country in averaging 5.87 yards per play. Additionally, the quality of defenses the Orange have seen in recent weeks (Pittsburgh, UNC, NC State, Wake Forest, Louisville) ranges from subpar to dismal.
The Notre Dame defense, on the other hand, is unquestionably elite, ranking 15th in the country in scoring defense (18.7 points allowed per game) and ninth in total defense (4.52 yards allowed per play). The Irish haven't allowed 30 points in a game this season, and have held two strong offenses (Michigan and Stanford) to 17 points each. The Irish also effectively limit big plays (30 gains of 20-plus yards allowed, 10th-fewest in FBS), meaning the Orange will need to grind to earn their yards.
3. Since Ian Book took over as quarterback in South Bend, the Notre Dame offense has been excellent. Book has a pristine 15-4 TD-INT ratio, averages 8.9 yards per pass attempt (10th nationally) and has an FBS-best completion percentage of 74.5. Book missed last week's game against Florida State with a rib injury, but the Irish offense hardly slowed down with one-time starter Brandon Wimbush back under center. Notre Dame won 42-13 with 495 yards of total offense, leaning heavily on the running game—RB Dexter Williams went for 202 yards on 20 carries. Williams has gone for 140-plus yards on the ground in four of the six games he's played in this season, and he should have a field day against a Syracuse defense that's allowing 4.4 yards per carry (78th in FBS). Book is expected to be back this week and should be near full strength on two weeks of rest. For an Orange D that has allowed many big plays this season, that's bad news.
Pick: Notre Dame -9.5
Confidence Level: Very High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)