For the first time since Dec. 5, 1953, the final game for Frank Leahy as Notre Dame’s head coach, the Fighting Irish will host a home game in December.
And because of the cancellation of next week’s game at Wake Forest, this also will be the first time since the infamous 1993 Boston College game the final regular-season game will be played at home. Notre Dame was 10-0 and No. 1 back then, and is 9-0 and No. 2 this season.
Amazingly this also could be the third time in the last eight seasons that 11th-year Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly could reach 10-0 in his career. When including his final season at Cincinnati in 2009, it would be the fourth time in 12 years.
The last time Syracuse visited Notre Dame, in 2008, the Orange was 2-8, had just fired their head coach and was a three-touchdown underdog — yet pulled off a 24-23 upset on Senior Day that basically marked the beginning of the end of the Charlie Weis era at Notre Dame.
This time the 1-9 Syracuse outfit is a 33-point underdog, while Notre Dame is a much deeper, organized and well-oiled machine vying for its second College Football Playoff in three years.
TODD BURLAGE, COLUMNIST
Notre Dame 49, Syracuse 13
Kelly has his program rolling, and a trip to South Bend by the worst team in the ACC provides little suspense or evidence that Kelly’s Irish won’t extend their winning streak at Notre Dame Stadium to 24 games. It will also see the fourth-year Irish seniors secure a second undefeated regular-season mark in the last three years and an overall record of 42-5 in all regular-season games since the start of their freshman season in 2017.
Two teams moving in different directions: Syracuse can’t wait to get its season over with while the Irish season is in many ways just getting started, considering all the postseason opportunities that await.
PATRICK ENGEL, ANALYST/BEAT WRITER
Notre Dame 42, Syracuse 7
This is the last game of the year for a 1-9 Syracuse team in a pandemic season. I find it hard think the downtrodden Orange are particularly interested in playing it. They have been out-gained by 2,031 yards this season and have dropped seven straight games. In all but one of those, they have allowed at least 30 points.
Notre Dame will head into the ACC Championship game prep with a newfound week of rest and another comfy win on its résumé.
ANDREW MENTOCK, STAFF WRITER
Notre Dame 48, Syracuse 6
Syracuse is overmatched from the start and Notre Dame jumps out to a commanding lead thanks to several rushing touchdowns against a unit allowing just more than 200 rushing yards this season. The defense also keeps the Orange out of the red zone for the entirety of the first half, and possibly only a turnover by the Irish might keep Syracuse from reaching the Irish side of the field.
By halftime, the game is out of hand and the Irish empty their bench early in the third quarter, giving reserves ample playing time and the starters more rest in preparation for the ACC Championship Dec. 19 at Charlotte, N.C.
MIKE SINGER, RECRUITING INSIDER
Notre Dame 38, Syracuse 6
Syracuse has had horrid results in the win-loss column this season, but at least they’ve been competitive. The Orange may make this game interesting for some of the first quarter, but the Fighting Irish will easily roll in this one.
Notre Dame is peaking at the right time, and with this now being the final game of the regular season, I expect the Irish to roll. My prediction has Notre Dame winning by 32 points, which would have the Cuse covering the spread. The Irish may play the backups early and experiment with some things offensively.
LOU SOMOGYI, SENIOR EDITOR
Notre Dame 38, Syracuse 3
Earlier this season, 46-point-favored Clemson was so bored about having to play the hapless Orange that it led only 27-21 with two minutes left in the third quarter before winning 47-21. On Senior Day on the final day of the regular season, I don’t anticipate the Fighting Irish will be as flat as the Tigers were.
Syracuse’s offense has been ravaged by injuries, and it’s difficult to envision the Orange reaching double-digit scoring in this game against a Notre Dame defense that is coming off a magnificent second half against a prolific North Carolina offense.
Despite all the miseries of this season, the Orange still showed it had some fight in them last week while leading NC State at halftime before falling 36-29. I have my doubts that there is much left for Syracuse in the emotional and physical fuel tank after that.
Two years ago, Notre Dame played its best all-around game of their Playoff year when they crushed the No. 12-ranked Orange in Yankee Stadium 36-3 to improve to 11-0. I don’t think this will be their best showing of the year, but it doesn’t have to be.