Hello friends! It’s once again that time of week for us to stop talking about last weekend’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish football game, and to move on and turn our focus to the upcoming opponent. Just as a reminder, this is what happened last week in the Irish’s somehow-underwhelming, 23-point blowout of the UNLV Rebels:
This Saturday, our 4-3 Irish will travel to Syracuse, New York to not only take on a better opponent, but the 16th-ranked, 6-1 Syracuse Orange who nearly upset Clemson AT Clemson last weekend.
The Orange appear to be much better in Dino Babers’ 7th season than most of us expected, and thus it’s pretty much a complete toss-up what will happen this weekend, considering the Irish’s ability to play both up and down to their opponents, as well as their ability to lose to anyone on any given day.
Thus, to try to get a better read on how this game might go, we reached out to our good friends over at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician (TNIIAM), the Syracuse site here at SB Nation. We were lucky enough to speak with Kevin Wall, Editor and Creator of The Official Jim Boeheim Jacket Toss Tracker™, and he gave us all sorts of excellent insight and humor in response to a WIDE array of questions that covered everything from Dino Babers to Sean Tucker to the Orange defense to the Maury fan-fiction I wrote about Otto the Orange four years ago.
So, let’s not wait any longer — time to jump into Kevin’s answers and arm ourselves with knowledge for Saturday’s noon ET kickoff!
1. Dino Babers has had a couple strong seasons at Syracuse (2018, this season) but has gone 19-40 in his other years at the helm. How do Orange fans feel about him and his future leading the football program? Is the fan base getting restless for more winning / consistency, or do Cuse fans feel he’s started to really get the program where it needs to go?
TNIAAM: People for the most part like Dino the person, but they are restless for him to deliver on his “consistently good, not occasionally great” mantra. Most rational fans realize that in today’s climate, Syracuse needs to be a consistent bowl team who can push to have 8 or 9 win seasons. The 6-0 start this year along with his recent coaching staff additions has given people hope that he can deliver.
Unfortunately some long-time errors with clock and game management emerged again last week and if this team falters down the stretch, the heat will be back on this winter. Not that he’ll be going anywhere, but many in this fanbase are stuck in the 90s and the expectation that Syracuse should always be a top 25 program.
2. Garrett Shrader has had a really nice year so far in 2022 — did Orange fans expect him to take this kind of leap when he transferred from Mississippi State, and what are his greatest strengths and weaknesses that Irish fans should be aware of?
TNIAAM: No one expected this when he transferred. I think many saw him as a running QB in the mode of Eric Dungey who could push Tommy DeVito. Last year most applauded his toughness and work on the ground while watching in horror at his accuracy throwing the ball.
This season it seems he’s benefited from coaching and scheme improvements, along with the emergence of Oronde Gadsden II. Shrader has taken a big step forward in his confidence and accuracy. While he might miss some reads, his accuracy has been a huge improvement.
3. Sean Tucker’s been a stud running back for the Orange for the last 3 seasons — what makes him so good, and how well do you think he’ll do against an Irish defensive front that’s experienced and talented but also can be a bit inconsistent?
Also, which other weapons beyond Tucker will Shrader have at his disposal — whom should ND fans be afraid of come Saturday?
TNIAAM: Tucker is rarely stopped behind the line because he’s got good vision and balance. He doesn’t dance around behind the line, he’ll try and hit the hole first and then look to make a cut and go. He’s the kind of player who can be slowed on two or three carries but then when he gets a small crease, he’s gone. The big improvement this year comes from Syracuse getting him the ball more as a receiver where he becomes a big match-up problem for opponents.
When Shrader throws, he’s looking for Tucker or Oronde Gadsden II. Listed as a tight end, Gadsden is moved all over the place by Robert Anae as he tries to get him into single coverage. Gadsden isn’t the fastest guy, but he’s got good size and hands and he goes up and gets the ball. Syracuse runs a lot of routes between the hash marks for him and it gives Shrader an easier throw.
4. The Syracuse defense has been a revelation under coordinator Tony White this year. How has White been able to transform that group into such a strong unit, and if you were Irish offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, how would you try to attack the Orange defense?
TNIAAM: The Orange corners — Garrett Williams (if he’s back) and Duce Chestnut — can be trusted on the outside, which lets White use his other nine defenders to attack from different angles. He does a good job mixing coverages and blitzes to try and bait quarterbacks into throwing into coverage.
Injuries have hit the defensive line so the best way to attack is what Clemson did in the second half — running inside the tackles, and then using play action to find Mayer beyond the linebackers. You don’t want to get in third and long situations because White isn’t afraid to let Mikel Jones and Marlowe Wax loose on the blitz.
5. Who on the Notre Dame side of things are you most afraid of heading into Saturday, if anyone? Are there any match-ups that worry you, or do you feel the Orange should have the advantage pretty much across the board?
TNIAAM: Mayer strikes the biggest fear by far. Purdue tight end Payne Durham had 8 receptions for 93 yards and two touchdowns earlier in the season and I don’t think he’s in Mayer’s class. Audric Estime tore up UNC and if he’s able to get going on the ground, it would force the Orange to have to commit more defenders to the run.
On the other side of the ball, Syracuse’s offensive line has been up and down this year. If they can’t open holes in the running game, it allows Notre Dame to attack Shrader with pressure and force him to throw the ball earlier than he wants.
6. How’s the health of the Syracuse team looking coming off a tough road game against Clemson, and seeing as we’re now 7 games into the season? Are there any key injuries or players who will be missing this weekend that we should know about?
TNIAAM: Syracuse has lost several key contributors already and last week Garrett Williams didn’t play, and the Orange lost NT Kevon Darton.
If Darton is out, the Orange would be down to their 3rd-string at that position, and for a team that’s struggling to stop the run, it will force Tony White to adjust. Getting Williams back would be huge as that allows the safeties to focus their attention on Mayer.
7. FAN QUESTION:
What are the chances Tucker gets 5 carries this week like he did against Clemson?— James M. DeVito (@jmdevito518) October 23, 2022
TNIAAM: We’re going to guess he goes over that total in the first quarter this week....although if Syracuse is playing tricks, they could probably decoy him early and catch the Irish by surprise.
8. FAN QUESTION:
How do you think ND will matchup with the 2-3 zone Syracuse deploys?— Philip G OFD (@Philip__G) October 23, 2022
TNIAAM: Notre Dame will kick the ball to the middle and then out to Blake Grupe who will set a career high for three-point makes. He’s got 8 on the season so pencil him in for 5 or 6 on Saturday.
A bigger question is how does Notre Dame respond when Joe Girard III comes out to take some snaps at quarterback for the Orange?*
*Pat Rick Note: that’s when Freeman sends in Prentiss Hubb and the two just jaw at each other while the other players handle the rest of the game
9. Please scroll to the “Halftime” section of this preview I wrote for the 2018 ND/Syracuse game and read the fan-fiction I authored about Otto the Orange titled “Orange You Glad Hux Inquired About This Topic????”.
Do you feel it’s a potentially accurate explanation of Otto’s lineage and relationship with his father, or have I got it all wrong? Please explain.
TNIAAM: We are unable to confirm nor deny this explanation.
Discussion of Otto’s lineage is against the decree of the Ottoman Empire and anyone engaging in discussion is forced into exile in the Kingdom of Georgetown. None of us would ever consider being stuck in such a vile, awful place for the rest of our days.
10. With Halloween on the Monday following this game, this weekend is officially the peak of #SpookySeason.
Please choose 5 current Syracuse players and 2 current Syracuse coaches and tell me which famous monster or horror movie villain each is most like, and why.
TNIAAM: Maximilian von Marburg is perfect for a Dracula remake.
Garrett Shrader’s 2021 beard would put him in the running for wolf man honors.
Kalan Ellis is 6’6” and 375 lbs, and if he’s waiting for you in a dark corner good luck.
Sean Tucker is like Freddie Krueger because he’ll appear in your nightmares all week.
Deuce Chestnut is lurking in the shadows and when you do see him, it’s too late.
Tony White is Jigsaw. He’s designing elaborate and painful traps that force opposing offenses to panic.
Dr. Robert Anae is the mad scientist crafting a diabolical plot to terrorize the collective of defensive coordinators who hate having to account for the quarterback on every play.
11. Alright, time to get down to it: what’s your prediction for this game? Who wins, what’s the final score, and give your reasoning why.
TNIAAM: Syracuse wins a 31-27 game after the defense stops a late Notre Dame drive. After last week the Orange make it a point to feed Tucker 25 touches, and he delivers over 150 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.
Mayer finishes the day with 9 receptions for 117 yards and two scores of his own, but an interception from Justin Barron ends a final push from the Irish.
Alrighty, folks — I wanna give another major shout-out and thank you to Kevin for all his fantastic answers and for putting up with some very weird questions/prompts (I might or might not be talking about that Maury mascot fan-fiction I wrote).
I encourage you all to head over to Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician to check out all the amazing content Kevin and his staff put together on a consistent basis, especially this week with all the coverage of this game (including a Q&A with yours truly).
Also, be sure to throw both the Nunes Magician site account and Kevin himself some follows on Twitter, as there will be no better accounts to check in on for Orange news, insights, and updates before, during, and after the big game on Saturday.
That’s it for this week — as always, GO IRISH, BEAT ORANGE!!!!