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Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Are Irish good enough to cover big number?

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish hope to hit a home run – and keep their College Football Playoff hopes intact – as they take on the Syracuse Orange at venerable Yankee Stadium on Saturday. The third-ranked Irish continued their perfect start to the season with last week’s 42-13 home victory over the Florida State Seminoles, but will be put to the test in neutral territory against an Orange team that comes in ranked 12th in the nation and has rolled over its past four opponents, averaging 46.5 points in victories over North Carolina, N.C. State, Wake Forest and Louisville.

QUICK-HITTER

Syracuse might boast one of the highest-scoring offenses in football at 44.4 points per game, but that might not play quite as well against an Irish side that is limiting Division I opponents to a minuscule 2.3 first-quarter points per contest. Notre Dame hasn’t allowed a point in the opening 15 minutes in three consecutive games, while putting up 37 points themselves over that span. These teams are also big fans of the field goal, having booted 40 of them combined. Look for this one to be a defensive struggle in the early going, making the field goal a solid choice as the first scoring play of the game.

Prediction: First scoring play – FG (+187)

FIRST HALF BET

Both teams are worthy of bettors’ attention for what they do on the offensive side of the ball, but they also deserve to be lauded for elements of their defense, as well. The Fighting Irish limit FBS opponents to 8.2 first-half points per game thanks in large part to holding opposing quarterbacks to a 55.0-percent completion rate. The Orange also rank inside the top 25 at 10.2 first-half points allowed per contest – and their third-down defense (26.2 percent, fifth in the nation) has a lot to do with that. We like these teams to go below the first-half total despite boasting elite offenses.

Prediction: Under 34 first-half total (-110)

TEAM/PLAYER BET

The Irish have traditionally followed high-scoring games with less explosive affairs, having gone 17-7 to the under in their past 24 games following an outburst of 40+ points. And the Orange will provide the Notre Dame defense with its toughest test to date, which will likely lead to the Irish offense having a smaller possession share than it has enjoyed for the bulk of the season. On the flip side, the Orange can’t expect to score a bunch of points against a Notre Dame defense that hasn’t allowed more than 27 points in a game this season. Don’t expect either team to reach the 35-point plateau in this one.

Prediction: Race to 35 points – Neither (+162)

FULL-GAME TOTAL

Syracuse is 1-1 SU and O/U against ranked teams this season, with a 27-23 loss to Clemson and a 51-41 triumph over N.C. State. Expect this one to more closely resemble the Orange’s narrow defeat to the host Tigers, with the Irish boasting a similar (though not quite as dominant) defense. In addition to Notre Dame’s solid under trends listed earlier, Syracuse has gone 12-5-1 to the under in its previous 18 games against teams with winning records and has gone below the total in nine of its past 13 following a straight-up win. There’s plenty of reason to like the under in this one.

Prediction: Under 64.5 (-110)

FULL-GAME SIDE

The Irish are good – but are they this good? They’ve enjoyed one of the friendlier schedules of any team in the CFP hunt, and are essentially playing a road game here with Syracuse fans expected to pack Yankee Stadium to the brim. That said, with Ian Book expected back from a rib injury, the Irish offense is in much better hands than it was with Brandon Wimbush. Four of Notre Dame’s six wins with Book as the starter have come by 20+ points, including road routs of Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and Navy. Book doesn’t mind hostile territory – and neither should the rest of the Irish, who are a good bet to cover.

Prediction: Notre Dame -10 (-110)

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