Talk about the tale of two teams. Last week’s UNLV game presented us with a data story of a team going through rough times, across the board. This week’s opponent, the Syracuse Orange, are in a very different situation. Syracuse is coming into this Week 9 matchup, 6-1 with it’s only loss on the season coming by way of Clemson last week.
Syracuse’s early opponents weren’t tomato cans (except potentially Wagner) but the Orange are just starting to get into the meat of their schedule. Their Week 7 game against now #24 NC State ended up with a 24-9 victory for the Orange. Last week Clemson brought a lot of its own issues and it took the Tigers putting 17 points up in the 4th quarter to seal Clemson’s 27-21 victory.
Overall, though, Syracuse has been playing at a high-level and after 2 week’s of somewhat flimsy data previews for Stanford and UNLV we can have a bit more fun this week. So let’s dig in.
Scoring Edge to Syracuse (Surprise Surprise!)
Syracuse has outscored Notre Dame in total points 237-186. We’re all pretty familiar with the Irish’s scoring troubles and we’ve trailed in this metric across almost all of our opponents this season. The Orange are averaging around 34 points per game, with that stat being skewed by their 48-14 win against UConn and 59-point shutout of Wagner.
A big thing that sticks out is Syracuse’s tendency to turn defensive turnovers into points. Forcing turnovers, much less scoring from them, isn’t an area that Notre Dame’s defense has really gotten around to this season. While Notre Dame’s offense is generally doing ok with hanging onto the ball, it’ll be interesting to see how things in this area play out during the game.
A Solid but Downward Trending Orange Offense
Syracuse is averaging around 413 total yards of offense per game. They’ve had their most success early on and once again, against Wagner. ND and the Orange have been trending in opposite directions, excepting the Stanford debacle.
Passing Edge Goes to Syracuse
Syracuse is averaging around 233 passing yards per game. They’ve had their most success early on and once again, against Wagner. ND and the Orange have been trending in opposite directions, excepting the Stanford debacle.
Syracuse’s junior quarterback, Garrett Shrader has been having a solid season so far. Through Week 8, the QB is 70% on 178 total attempts. He’s tallied up 1,601 total yards through the air. Schrader’s done a pretty good job of taking care of the football and has only 4 interceptions. His interception troubles have started to tick up as the Orange are getting deeper into their schedule.
Syracuse’s Rushing Standout: Sean Tucker
Syracuse’s rushing unit is putting up an average of around 180 yards per game. They’ve had their most success early on and once again, against Wagner. ND and the Orange have been trending in opposite directions, excepting the Stanford debacle.
Throughout the season, Syracuse has averaged about 37 total rush attempts per game. They’ve been trending downwards in their utilization of the run game, though, and only had 28 rush attempts in last week’s loss to Clemson.
Syracuse’s rushing production, as measured by avg. yards per attempt, has been all over the map. They’ve gone from a high of 9.9 yards per carry against Wagner all the way down to 2 yards per carry against UVA.
Sophomore running back Sean Tucker has been the Orange’s go to guy on the ground. Tucker is averaging 5.4 yards on 129 total attempts. The sophomore back has also tallied up 55% (698) of the team’s total rushing yards. Quarterback Shrader has also played a big role in moving the ball on the ground. He’s accounted for 29% (371) of Syracuse’s total rushing yards.
Syracuse’s Receiving Standout: Oronde Gadsden II
Sophomore wide receiver Oronde Gadsden II is leading Syracuse’s receiving corps in production. Gadsden has 37 receptions so far and is averaging 16 yards per reception. He’s also tallied up 39% (593) of the team’s receiving yards. When measured by reception yards, senior wide receiver Devaughn Cooper is the group’s #2 and running back Tucker is #3. The leading running back also has 28 receptions and accounts for 14% (216) of Syracuse’s receiving yards.
Some Issues with Moving the Ball
The Orange’s ball movement metrics have been trending downwards. Throughout the season, Syracuse has averaged about 23 first downs per game but hit a season low of 17 last week against Clemson
Syracuse’s 3rd down conversion success has been a bit scattered. They’ve gone from a high of 65% successfully converted against Wagner all the way down to 25% against Purdue.
A Formidable Syracuse Defense
Syracuse’s defense has shown the capacity to be pretty competent. The unit is averaging close to 300 total yards allowed per game, a metric that is dragged down by the Wagner and UConn games. Removing those two games from the calculation and the Orange defense is allowing 362 yards per game. Purdue and Clemson are the teams who’ve had the most success against Syracuse’s defense.
Removing the Purdue and Wagner outliers, Syracuse’s defense is averaging 151 passing yards allowed per game.
What’s of some concern to me is the Orange defense’s track records against opponent’s rushing attacks. They’re allowing an average of 123 rushing yards per game. Adjusting this metric for the Wagner and Clemson (the Tigers put up 293 rushing yards) outliers, the team’s defense is only allowing around 108 yards per game on the ground.
On paper, this is the most formidable opponent the Irish will face since the BYU game. Syracuse is coming into this game not blowing things out of the water in any specific ways but boasting a demonstrated ability to consistently win games.
Given that the Irish have been struggling to get all of its pistons firing in individual matchups, this part worries me. If the Irish come out this week as a more complete package it’ll be competitive and I imagine that the defense can seal a victory but shutting down Syracuse’s conservative offense even though ND’s offense will probably struggle to pull its weight.
The Orange defense’s demonstrated ability to contain offenses may end up being the dealbreaker, though. With Logan Diggs and the rest of the Irish rushing stable coming more into their own and the more consistent production from the team’s receiving corps (even if it’s mostly just wonder boy Mayer) I’m confident that Notre dame will squeak out another close win.
Cheer and Go Irish!!