Earlier this week it was announced that No. 2 Notre Dame officially clinched a spot in the Dec. 19 ACC Championship Game in its first season as a member of a conference as the league made adjustments to its schedule to conclude the 2020 college football season. The Fighting Irish know they will play either Clemson or Miami in Charlotte, North Carolina, with a chance to claim the first conference championship in program history.
Notre Dame will no longer play its Dec. 12 game at Wake Forest as the ACC looks to name its conference championship participants after Week 14 action, so Saturday’s game against Syracuse is not just the final home game of the season but also the regular season finale.
It’ll be the last time out on the field in South Bend for Ian Book and a senior class that has helped totally change Notre Dame’s place in the modern college football landscape. The Fighting Irish have won 32 of their last 35 games, won 23 consecutive games at Notre Dame Stadium and are one of just four teams to have three or fewer losses since the start of 2018. Those other teams being Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State.
While Notre Dame has always been an iconic brand, Brian Kelly and this group of juniors and seniors have helped transform the program into a modern power on the same footing as teams like Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State. A big part of Saturday will be celebrating those seniors, and how their success has helped set the standard for the future of Notre Dame football.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish defense played one of its best games of the season at North Carolina, and that side of the ball is becoming a key storyline for how the Fighting Irish stack up against the other national title contenders. At 16.7 points per game allowed, Notre Dame has the third-best scoring defense among all Power Five teams, but that ability to keep teams out of the end zone has become a trademark of the unit led by Clark Lea. In the 35 games of Lea’s tenure as defensive coordinator, 32 opponents have been held to less than 30 points. According to Notre Dame, that count of 32 includes an extensive list of ranked opponents with LSU, Michigan, Stanford, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Clemson, Georgia, Virginia, Navy and, as of Saturday, North Carolina. It’s a group that has gotten old, stayed old, relied on player development and an elite strength and conditioning program to establish itself as one of the toughest defenses in the country since the start of 2018.
Syracuse: With the clock winding down and Syracuse in position to take a shot at a game-tying touchdown against NC State at home, the Orange saw their hopes for a second ACC win dashed by a spike on fourth down. It was a deflating way to lose in a season that has been the toughest in recent memory for Syracuse. The combination of injuries and opt-outs have left the Orange going into some game weeks with player availability closer to FCS teams (which have 63 scholarship players) with many of those key contributors that are healthy being underclassmen. It’s important to bounce back after that heartbreaking finish to NC State, but this seemingly playoff-bound Fighting Irish team is not the ideal opponent for a bounce-back performance.
Date: Saturday, Dec. 5 | Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
Location: Notre Dame Stadium — South Bend, Indiana
TV: NBC | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Syracuse at Notre Dame prediction, picks
There are plenty of trends relating to conference underdogs of 30-plus points that would tell you to take a flyer on Syracuse, but don’t take the bait. The Orange are coming off heartbreak with a potential game-tying drive ending on a fourth-down spike, and that letdown is more suspect than Notre Dame’s potential hangover from a huge win at North Carolina. Even if the Irish are rusty, it will be on offense. The under is the best play, but if you have to take a side roll with the favorite. Pick: Notre Dame (-34)
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 14? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread — all from a proven computer model that has returned over $3,500 in profit over the past four-plus seasons — and find out.