Dexter Williams vs Ryan Guthrie
I’ve already mentioned the success Dexter Williams had a week ago, rushing for a career high 202 yards and adding another two touchdowns to his season total. He has been a great spark for this offense ever since his return in week five vs Stanford.
Outside of his breakaway speed. part of what makes Williams a great back for this offense is his vision to find the crease when running between the tackles or make a cut up-field when running outside zone or sweeps. He isn’t a one dimensional back in the running game, which keeps the playbook open when he’s on the field.
It’s clear that he’s the number one back in this offense and will continue to get the majority of the carries. Saturday he will be relied upon per usual to make plays when the ball is in his hands. The important matchup for Williams to win will be with Syracuse middle linebacker Ryan Guthrie.
Guthrie is a senior who was a former JUCO transfer that leads this Syracuse defense. He didn’t see too much action last year, but this year he has really burst onto the scene and made a name for himself. He’s second on the team with 77 tackles and has 11.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, and two fumble recoveries. His 6-2, 224 pound frame makes him big enough to hold his own in the run game, but fast enough to be efficient in pass coverage and be a sideline-to-sideline player.
There’s no doubt that Dex and Guthrie will meet one-on-one multiple times Saturday. Whether it’s in the hole on a third and short or on the outside after catching a swing pass, Dex will need to make Guthrie miss to create some big plays for the Irish offense.
Obviously, Syracuse has more than one linebacker, but traditionally the middle linebacker is the brute of the defense that is tasked with making plays between the tackles. That is the task that Guthrie will bear this weekend. With the success Notre Dame had between the tackles last weekend, I don’t see them straying away from the ground game up the middle. Pay attention to who can win the individual battles between Williams and Guthrie Saturday.
Advantage: Irish (slightly)