Notre Dame Football: 5 Questions with a Syracuse writer

SYRACUSE, NY - SEPTEMBER 09: Head coach Dino Babers of the Syracuse Orange leads his team onto the field before the game against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders on September 9, 2017 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
SYRACUSE, NY - SEPTEMBER 09: Head coach Dino Babers of the Syracuse Orange leads his team onto the field before the game against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders on September 9, 2017 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

We had a chance to bounce some questions off of Inside the Loud House expert Paul Esden Jr. in regard to Saturday’s Notre Dame football game against Syracuse.

Notre Dame football will take on the Syracuse Orange on Saturday at Yankee Stadium. This week, we had the privilege of doing a bit of cross-collaboration with FanSided’s Syracuse site, Inside the Loud House.

In doing so, I was able to bounce five quick questions off site expert Paul Esden Jr.. In addition to running Inside the Loud House, Paul is also a sports talk radio host in Syracuse on The Score 1260.

Here’s how that exchange went.

JP: What is the general feel around the Syracuse football program in Upstate New York these days? Excitement, cautious optimism, or a mix of both?

Paul: Pure euphoria! At the end of 2017, after the Syracuse Orange got blasted by Boston College and ended the season on a five game losing streak after upsetting Clemson, Dino came to the microphone and said 2018 will be a year we will talk about for a very long time. Many laughed it off, but that stuck with me through the offseason.

This is a team that prior to this year had three straight 4-8 seasons, and then a 3-9 season before that. So for Dino to say this was significant and really put himself out there, but this team has delivered on his promise with an 8-2 season.

They could be undefeated. They had Clemson up against the ropes until the final few seconds of the game and lost to Pitt in overtime. This Syracuse team is playing with house money. They have a bowl berth, they have a guaranteed winning season and they’re expected to lose this game against Notre Dame. All the pressure is on the Irish. 

JP: When it comes to name recognition, most Notre Dame fans know Eric Dungey and Dino Babers. Give us another name on offense and one on defense who Irish fans should be wary of.

Paul: Sure those are the big sexy names, but there are plenty of other names that are worth discussing.

On offense let’s go to the backfield. Moe Neal is a scatback-like body, but every time he touches the ball it could be a home run. That was evident in his performance last week against a sub-par Louisville team, where he ran for over 150 yards on less then 10 carries and two touchdowns. 

While on defense, the defensive line should absolutely be feared. Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson make an absolutely lethal combination coming after the quarterback. Syracuse is in the top-10 in sacks, so this Orange defense can cause pressure.

The weakness for the defense is at linebacker, as there’s so much inexperience and so many players who were thrown in that role (Ryan Guthrie switched from DL to LB and Kielan Whitner switched from DB to LB).

The secondary is hot and cold. The hot has been freshman Andre Cisco, who has been timely with his takeaways this season (five interceptions, which is tied for third in all of college football). The cold has been breakdowns in coverage. 

JP: If you could speak for the Syracuse masses, what’s the general attitude toward the 2018 Notre Dame team? Overrated or a legitimate measuring stick for the Syracuse program?

Paul: At the beginning of the year, definitely overrated. But I think that’s a product of Notre Dame, the New York Yankees, Alabama Crimson Tide, New England Patriots, and the Golden State Warriors. What’s the commonality with all those teams? They’re discussed all the time and fans of the teams love it, but everyone else gets annoyed by it and thus the overrated term floats out.

I have a unique perspective of Notre Dame. I’ve watched every Notre Dame game for the last 15 years. My dad is a die-hard and I watched all the games with him and continued to do so when I moved to the Syracuse area in 2008 and started covering the football team. So I know how good this Fighting Irish team was coming in and how good they are now.

I think a lot of Syracuse fans have changed their tune a bit about how ‘overrated’ this team really is. But at the end of the day, as Dino Babers called it, this is a ‘freebie’ game. It’s a nonconference game, Syracuse is projected to lose, and there’s no legitimate way Syracuse gets into the College Football Playoff — so they’re playing with house money.

On the other side Notre Dame NEEDS this game to realize their destiny of the College Football Playoff. They have everything to lose. 

JP: Which Notre Dame player or position group concerns you the most heading into Saturday?

Paul: To be honest, Brandon Wimbush. He’s such a talented athlete and Syracuse has struggled stopping the run. The read option with Wimbush and Dexter Williams could create some massive issues for the Orange.  That said, it appears Ian Book is ready to go for the Syracuse game. He is one of the most efficient passers in the entire country with a 75 percent completion percentage and an impressive touchdown to interception ratio.

So the running game is No. 1, and even if Wimbush doesn’t start at quarterback, the Irish would be wise to maximize his talents. And Book has completely changed the dynamic of the Irish offense and has allowed the team to realize it’s maximum potential in my mind. 

JP: Finally, how do you see the game playing out?

Paul: As a Notre Dame fan born and raised and also covering this Syracuse team for the last decade, I’m split. I’ll be at the game on Saturday at Yankee Stadium and I have no idea what team I’ll be representing. I’m split — I really am.

Next. Unpopular Facts and Opinions about Notre Dame vs. Syracuse. dark

But I foresee this game being a classic shootout and whoever has the ball last may win this game. Eric Dungey is capable of beating you through the air or on the ground and that’s a super dangerous combination.

Give me the Irish winning this one 48-45 over the Orange in an exciting last-second thriller.