Five keys for Notre Dame against Syracuse: Irish need to come out of Saturday unscathed

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Here are five keys for No. 2 Notre Dame (9-0, 8-0 ACC) when it hosts Syracuse (1-9, 1-8) on Saturday (2:30 p.m. EDT on NBC).

NO FOOLING AROUND

Favored by more than four touchdowns, Notre Dame should convincingly handle Syracuse. The Orange are expected to finish this season with fewer than two wins for only the second time since 1949. But Syracuse also will have nothing to lose. The Irish starting slow and turning the ball over early could give the Orange hope that they can pull off an upset. So Notre Dame should look to score first and build a commanding lead.

NO INJURIES

Jumping out to an early lead should also help Notre Dame mitigate losing players to injury. The Irish need to come out of this game relatively unscathed before facing formidable opponents in the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 19 and beyond. Notre Dame already lost starting center Jarrett Patterson (foot) for the season and right guard Tommy Kraemer (appendectomy) for a couple weeks. Patterson’s replacement, sophomore Zeke Correll (ankle), will be a gametime decision on Saturday. Kraemer will be available only on an emergency basis and plans to permanently return to the lineup on Dec. 19. Without Correll and Kraemer, seniors Josh Lugg and Dillan Gibbons would start at their respective positions.

UNLEASH LENZY

Notre Dame wide receiver Braden Lenzy is expected to receive significant action for the first time since reinjuring his hamstring at Pittsburgh on Oct. 24. Lenzy has battled through injuries and played just five games this season, catching six passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. With his elite speed, Lenzy could add another element to this offense. Having a standout performance on Saturday could help Lenzy build his confidence back before the ACC Championship Game. So the Irish should look to feature him in their game plan.

GOOD OL PLAY

Pro Football Focus ranks Notre Dame’s offensive line No. 1 in the country. The Irish position group should be tested down the stretch. Without Correll, they would be on their third-team center. Without Lugg at right guard, they would be on their third-team right guard. Notre Dame should not have a problem handling Syracuse’s porous defensive line. But the Irish offensive line should hope to have a dominant performance to prove that they are worthy of the Joe Moore Award.

WREAK HAVOC DEFENSIVELY

The Irish defense held each of their last six opponents to under 100 rushing yards and generated eight sacks against North Carolina’s respectable offensive line last Friday. They have an opportunity to continue wreaking havoc on Saturday. Syracuse ranks No. 123 in sacks allowed per game (3.70) and No. 124 in rushing yards per game (78.3). The Orange also are on their third-team quarterback, Rex Culpepper, after losing starter Tommy DeVito and backup JaCobian Morgan to injuries. Look for defensive ends Daelin Hayes and Adetokunbo Ogundeji to have strong performances.

Notre Dame grad senior Josh Lugg may be returning to a starting role at right tackle where he finished the last five games of the 2019 season.
Notre Dame defensive end Daelin Hayes (9) chases New Mexico’s Javohn Jones on Sept. 14, 2019.

At Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN

Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. EST

TV: NBC

Series history: Notre Dame leads 6-3

Betting line: Notre Dame by 33 1/2