Stacking Up: Notre Dame Defense vs. Syracuse

A look at how the Notre Dame defense stacks up on paper against Syracuse
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No. 2 Notre Dame (9-0) wraps up its 2020 regular season this weekend against the Syracuse Orange (1-9). The Fighting Irish should dominate this matchup, at least they should based on the on paper matchup.

We continue our coverage of the Notre Dame vs. Syracuse matchup by breaking down how the Fighting Irish defense stacks up on paper against the Orange offense, which is one of the nation's worst.

Notre Dame Scoring Defense vs Syracuse Scoring Offense

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Advantage: Notre Dame

Syracuse has been unable to stay healthy at quarterback, and that has been a driving force behind the struggles on offense. But if we're being honest, Syracuse wasn't very good on offense before quarterback Tommy DeVito went down with a season-ending injury.

Syracuse has scored 14 points or less in half of its games and has gone for less than 300 yards of offense in seven games, and two others resulted in 325 yards and 308 yards. Syracuse's season high in yards is just 357 yards (in its only win), and it has gone above 4.0 yards per play in just half of its games.

There isn't a silver lining either, as Syracuse ranks 118th or worse in scoring offense, total offense, yards per play, red zone offense, third-down offense and turnovers lost.

Notre Dame, on the other hand, is the best defense Syracuse has played this season. Notre Dame ranks 10th in scoring defense, 10th in total defense, 18th in yards allowed per play and 3rd in third-down defense. 

Notre Dame Rush Defense vs Syracuse Rush Offense

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Advantage: Notre Dame

This is arguably the biggest mismatch of the season. Arguably the nation's best rush defense against arguably the nation's worst rush offense.

Notre Dame ranks in the top 10 nationally in yards allowed (4th), yards allowed per rush (6th) and tackles for loss (9th). Only two Notre Dame opponents have topped 100 yards this season, and one of those instances was 106 yards by South Florida.

The run dominance goes back to last season with Notre Dame giving up just 89.3 rushing yards per contest in its last 14 games against non-option teams.

Last week, Notre Dame held North Carolina's high-powered ground attack, which had two backs on pace for 1,000 yards, to just 87 yards and 2.9 yards per carry.

Syracuse has topped 100 yards on the ground just twice this season, and one of those games required a 61-yard reverse for a score to top the century mark. Syracuse rushed for just three yards in its most recent loss.

Part of the issue has been sacks, as Syracuse has lost 219 yards on 37 sacks.

One bright spot has been true freshman running back Sean Tucker, who has 525 yards (4.6 YPC) on the season.

Notre Dame Pass Defense vs Syracuse Pass Offense

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Advantage: Notre DameTrue

The one area where Notre Dame has been vulnerable this season has been in the pass game. In the last three games, Notre Dame has given up an average of 307.3 yards per game through the air and gave up five passing scores.

Holding North Carolina to 211 yards was an impressive performance, but the Irish have been vulnerable to big plays in the pass game.

Syracuse threw the ball quite well in the loss to NC State (254 yards), but it was abysmal the previous four games. Was last weekend a sign of things to come or was it an anomaly? We'll find out this weekend.

The good news for Syracuse is it has a pair of wideouts in Taj Harris and Nykeim Johnson that are capable of big plays. Johnson had a 61-yard score on a reverse and hauled in an 83-yard touchdown pass against Clemson.

Notre Dame ranks 24th in sacks, while Syracuse ranks 123rd in sacks allowed. Preventing the quarterback - whoever that is - from having time to throw will be key for the Irish defense. I expect the Orange pass attack to look more like it was before the NC State game than how it was in that performance.

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