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Opponent Q&A: Syracuse

What does Syracuse blog Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician see coming on Saturday against the Irish?

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

We sit down with John Cassilo (@JohnCassillo) from Syracuse SB Nation blog Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician to discuss the Irish vs. Orange this Saturday at MetLife Stadium.

You can find my responses to John's questions HERE. Without further ado, let's start peeling the Orange:


1) Last week against Maryland, Syracuse's defense struggled mightily against quick routes and quick RB passes/screens into the flat. Given the weapons that the Irish have on offense, do you expect a similar plan of attack this Saturday?

They certainly did struggle in the first half, though the second half was much better for the Orange defense, surprisingly. Despite the fact that quick routes and screens are staples of our own playbook, we've always seemed to struggle with them in games -- no, it doesn't make any sense to us either. Notre Dame is certainly well-equipped to attack Syracuse similarly to what Maryland did last week, though the hope is that the lessons learned there can carry over into this Saturday. We'll see... the likely strategy of constant pressure on Everett Golson seems like it may set up nicely for him to get off those same sorts of completions.

2) What is your opinion on having this game at MetLife Stadium, away from the Carrier Dome? Is it worth it to your program for recruiting purposes, or is it just something that reduces home field advantage for no good reason?

Fans in the Syracuse area (and students) are annoyed about it, and I don't blame them at all. Season ticket prices don't really change with that game off the schedule, and I'd contend the last two teams we've played down there (USC, Penn State) probably would've lost to the Orange at the Carrier Dome. But it's hard to argue with the results, and as a fan that lives nowhere near campus (Los Angeles), it's easy for me to be okay with the trip down to New Jersey every couple years. Right now, the program would stand no chance of repeated primetime ABC/ESPN games without the venue and the opponent. And while I don't know how much it's assisting recruiting (though we are getting back into New Jersey after a decade-long hiatus), it is helping out our exposure and the bottom line. Estimates say that one MetLife game takes in more money for SU than all of our true home games combined in a given season. That's incredibly tough to argue with as a fan of the program.

3) Who is one non-star player that ND fans may not know who is going to have a huge game against the Irish on each side of the ball?

Well, I guess that depends on who you know on this Syracuse team, because we're not exactly loaded with "stars." That said, some names to consider:

On offense, it's Brisly Estime. With Ashton Broyld out, he'll be taking over the starting H-Back role (basically a slot receiver in our offense) and will find himself targeted quite a bit in the early goings of Saturday's game. Estime has a ton of speed and if he gets some room to run on the perimeter, he's very tough to get a hold of. He's also a pretty lethal punt returner, so if the Irish have any concerns there, he might be cause for a headache.

Defensively, I'd look out for Marqez Hodge. He's the least heralded of our three starting linebackers, but because of that, he's also the most likely to slip through the defense unnoticed. While Cam Lynch has certainly been a one-man wrecking crew from one of the outside spots, that's allowed Hodge to exploit the middle of the offensive line and get some great penetration on both passing and rushing plays. He already has a scoop-and-score this year, and his speed on the blitz is a huge asset.

4) The first few games of Syracuse's season have been up and down -- is it a case of "as Terrel Hunt goes, so we go," or something more glaring in the makeup of this Orange team?

I've characterized this team in that way, yeah. That's not to downplay our other personnel. But given the read-option basis of our offense and the amount he runs, it's tough not to see things as largely dependent on Hunt. His mobility is his greatest asset and also serves as a distraction for the defense, but at times, we do get a little too caught up in it -- and we certainly did last year. This season, his decision making has greatly improved and that's certainly helped his passing become a bigger part of the overall offense. This Orange team is not as one-dimensional (in favor of the run) as people think, and how well Hunt throws the football could largely decide the outcome of this game.

5) Everett Golson has struck fear in the hearts of opposing DCs so far this season. How do you expect the Syracuse defense to attack the Irish? In watching tape, it looks like an aggressive style of defense -- will we see the same on Saturday?

If Syracuse doesn't blitz the hell out of the Irish offensive line (especially given recent reshuffling), I'd be shocked. It's been a hallmark of Orange defenses since Scott Shafer showed up in 2009, and that's unlikely to change Saturday as it's been a catalyst for every big upset we've pulled in recent years. We're not the best at defending mobile quarterbacks, so that'll be a challenge -- especially given the constant blitzing --  but expect some combination of five-man rushes with two linebackers staying back, or the "Okie" package, which is a 3-5 front we'll occasionally deploy against teams with a dual-threat QB. The goal for SU will be to get to Golson by any means necessary, even if it means giving up a couple bigger plays in the process.