Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 19, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 38 of 55 NOV. 19, 2018 39 During its five-game losing streak to end the season, Syracuse allowed 43.2 points per game en route to fin- ishing seventh in the seven-team At- lantic Division of the ACC. It had its third straight 4-8 finish and was 15-33 over the past four years — the lone school in the 14- team ACC over that time not to play in a bowl game. Consequently, Ba- bers could be the 2018 ACC Coach of the Year for the turnaround he has produced that moved them up to No. 13 in the College Football Playoff rankings, its loftiest standing since September 1998 when Donovan McNabb was at quarterback. "I took a lot of planning into trying my best to make sure this team came to November healthy," Babers said of his resurrection season. "… I wasn't sure if those things were going to help us. I just know that we did it a certain way the two years before and it didn't work." Most crucial was keeping senior quarterback Eric Dungey healthy because he had missed the final three games of each of the past three seasons. "Everybody really bought in," Dungey said of year three under Ba- bers. "The past couple of years we've been through a lot." "The senior class especially is re- ally taking care of their bodies," Ba- bers said. "They are not as tired as they were in 2017, 2016. They're re- ally, really locked in. These guys are different. They understand what the word moderation means. "It gives them an opportunity to do something special. Doesn't mean it's going to happen. It just means they have a chance." HUGE TURN IN TURNOVERS No stat in football can impact an outcome more than turnovers, and Syracuse's turnaround this year can be significantly attributed to turn- over margin. Last year's 4-8 Orange forced only 12 turnovers, which was tied for 115th nationally, and they were 122nd in turnover margin (minus-12). This year during its 7-2 start, Syra- cuse was No. 5 in the country in turn- over margin with a plus-1.33 average, already generating 21 turnovers (nine fumbles recovered and 12 intercepted passes) while committing only nine it- self. This is notable because although Notre Dame boasts an outstanding, veteran defense, the one area it hasn't been as strong in is producing turn- overs. It ranked tied for 67th in the country with 13 during the 9-0 start. In our post-spring countdown of Notre Dame's potentially weakest to possibly strongest foes from 12 to 1, No. 12 Ball State and No. 11 Vander- bilt both gave Notre Dame strong bat- tles in September before losing 24-16 and 22-17, respectively. Syracuse (our No. 10 pick back then) is significantly better than both, and winning the turnover battle would facilitate its chances of emerging victorious. The response might be that quar- terback Ian Book wasn't running the offense against Ball State and Vander- bilt, but it remains to be seen how healthy he will be against the Orange after having to sit out the previous week versus Florida State. ✦ GAME PREVIEW: SYRACUSE Predictions Corey Bodden: Notre Dame 34, Syracuse 24 Syracuse is playing well and quarterback Eric Dungey can hurt defenses through the air or with his legs. But the Orange defense allowed 28.1 points per game through the first nine contests. That ulti- mately dooms the Orange's chances of pulling the upset. Bryan Driskell: Notre Dame 41, Syracuse 30 Syracuse is the best offense Notre Dame will play this season, and the Irish will be tested. Essential to victory will be the Irish offense getting off to a faster start than it has most of the season. David McKinney: Notre Dame 37, Syracuse 24 In a game that's going to mean much more than we thought at the beginning of the season, Notre Dame has far more talent than Syracuse. That should be enough to get the Irish a quality win. Lou Somogyi: Notre Dame 35, Syracuse 27 This has "upset special" written all of it — which is why I can't pick it as such. It could be similar to the Northwestern game in that the Orange will seriously threaten to win the game in the fourth quarter before Notre Dame closes with a strong late drive. Syracuse's Dino Babers is a strong candidate to earn ACC Coach of the Year honors after engineering a turnaround from 4-8 last year to 7-2 this season with the program's highest ranking (No. 13) in two decades. PHOTO COURTESY SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS

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