Players to watch: Notre Dame vs. Syracuse

Tyler James
tjames1@sbtinfo.com

• Syracuse has scored more than 50 points on five occasions this season. The Orange average 45.7 points per game, good for No. 5 in the FBS.

• The Orange are tied for No. 2 nationally with 25 turnovers gained (14 interceptions and 11 recovered fumbles). A turnover margin of +13 puts Syracuse ahead of all but three teams: Georgia Southern, Fresno State and UCF.

• Syracuse kicker Andre Szmyt leads the country in field goals (27), field goals attempted (29) and total points (132). He’s made all 20 of his field goals from inside 40 yards and hit three field goals of at least 50 yards (50, 51 and 54).

• The Orange defense has allowed only 39 third-down conversions on 149 attempts. That 26.2 percent conversion rate qualifies for No. 5 in FBS. Syracuse has forced an average of 5.9 three-and-outs per game, tied for third nationally with Alabama.

S JALEN ELLIOTT

Stability at safety has gone a long way in strengthening Notre Dame’s defense. Elliott’s improvement from last season has allowed that. He’s shown a nose for the football with three interceptions and one forced fumble this season and had a chance at a fourth interception last week against Florida State. Elliott will certainly be tested against Syracuse’s passing offense. He’ll likely be forced to make tackles in space if Syracuse’s improved running game finds traction too.

QB IAN BOOK

Syracuse’s defense has been susceptible to the pass. The Orange have allowed 261.3 passing yards per game, which ranks No. 107 in the country. That should be a welcome sight for Book as he makes his return from a rib injury. Book maintained his spot as the nation’s top quarterback in completion percentage (74.5) while sidelined. Can the Irish find offensive balance with Book back at quarterback and an improved running game? Against a high-scoring offense would be a good time to apply it.

QB ERIC DUNGEY

The last time these two teams met in 2016, Dungey accounted for five touchdowns. Now a senior, the 6-foot-4, 226-pound quarterback has continued his prolific ways. Dungey has completed 183 of his 303 passes for 2,193 yards and 14 touchdowns with five interceptions, and rushed for 690 yards and 12 touchdowns. Dungey is one of three active FBS quarterbacks with 8,000+ passing yards and 1,000+ rushing yards. Reducing Dungey’s effectiveness will be the key for the Irish defense.

DE ALTON ROBINSON

With nine sacks in 10 games, Robinson is a force. The former JUCO transfer is in a tie for seventh in the country with seven players including Florida State’s Brian Burns, who gave the Irish some trouble last week despite not tallying a sack. Robinson’s defensive disruptions have also included six more tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles. Keeping Robinson away from a banged-up Ian Book should be a priority.

Notre Dame’s Jalen Elliott (21) celebrates making a stop in Notre Dame’s 31-21 victory over Northwestern on Nov. 3, 2018.
Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey (No. 2) throws a pass against Louisville.