Preview: Rutgers at Syracuse

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Rutgers opens the Big East season tomorrow afternoon against Syracuse. The Orange bested the Scarlet Knights the last two times out and Rutgers has not won at the Carrier Dome since Ray Rice's final year in college.

Rutgers (2-1) at Syracuse (3-1)


Time: Noon, Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
TV/Radio: SNY, 710-WOR, 1450-AM, 97.5 FM, 88.7 WRSU
Series: Syracuse leads, 30-10-1
Last meeting: Nov. 13, 2010: Syracuse won, 13-10
Coaches: Rutgers – Greg Schiano (11th season, 61-64); Syracuse – Doug Marrone (3rd season, 15-14)

Storylines

  • Big East Opener. Like the Scarlet Knights say, every conference game is a championship game. There is no Big East championship game, meaning the title is based simply on wins and losses in the regular season. Rutgers looks to start off 1-0 in the Big East for the second straight season with a win tomorrow over the Orange.

  • Hostile Environment. The last trip to the Carrier Dome was an ugly one. The offensive line surrendered nine sacks and gave Marrone a signature win in his inaugural season. Rutgers has not beating Syracuse on the road since Ray Rice and Kenny Britt combined for 404 yards and four touchdowns in 2007.

  • Send a Message. It may not have much extra meaning to Schiano or his team, but to the fans, it is a chance to help the door hit Syracuse on the way out. Rutgers has back-to-back games against ACC defectors Syracuse and Pittsburgh and can send a strong message with a pair of wins.

Scouting Syracuse

Offensively, the Orange have impact players in both the run and pass game. It begins with quarterback Ryan Nassib, who was effective two years ago in the Dome along with Greg Paulus. Last year, he efficiently went 16-for-31 for 214 yards, a touchdown and an interceptions.

Syracuse has an efficient running game led by Antwon Bailey's 318 yards in four games. In the passing game, receivers Alec Lemon and Van Chew each have more than 225 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Lemon also passed for a touchdown on a trick play.

Quarterback Ryan Nassib
Defensively, the most significant threat comes from the coaching scheme. Rutgers was totally unprepared for the Orange blitz two years ago and did not fare much better last season.

This year, however, the Syracuse pass rush has not been as dynamic. The Orange average just two sacks per game and allow 126 rushing yards per game.

Matchup to Watch
Chas Dodd vs. The Dome. The offensive line did not do Tom Savage any favors two years ago, but the true freshman could not handle the environment. Dodd has an extra year of experience and comes from one of the best high school programs in the country, but has never seen (or heard) anything like the Carrier Dome, especially if multiple Syracuse promotion draw a respectable attendance.

What Rutgers Must Do Offensively
Help Sanu.The dropped passes have to stop. Many argued there is more potential on this season's group of receivers than in 2008 with Kenny Britt, Tiquan Underwood and Tim Brown. It is time they start playing like it. Get open and catch the ball.

What Rutgers Must Do Defensively
Be Prepared for Anything.Two years ago, Syracuse came out of nowhere with an option attack from quarterbacks Greg Paulus and Ryan Nassib that produced more than 200 rushing yards. Last year, the Orange ran for more than 160 yards out of standard formations. Greg Schiano has to scheme and prepare for whatever wrenches they might throw into the mix to get a fourth home win.

Three keys for a Rutgers win
Jawan Jamison
1. Run that ball. Ohio was a step in the right direction, but Savon Huggins, Jeremy Deering and Jawan Jamison can all play better. If Rutgers wants a chance to stretch the field against Syracuse's pass rush in the Dome, it starts with the run game. For Jamison, he needs to be as strong in the fourth quarter as he is in the first. For Huggins, he needs to get his confidence up and keep the football off the turf. For Deering, find as many ways as possible to creatively get him the ball in space.

2. Good line play. Rutgers plans to use a silent count on the offensive line to counteract the anticipated noise in the Carrier Dome. The more time Dodd has, the less Rutgers needs to worry about starting off 0-1 in the conference.

3. Stretch the field with Sanu. The junior receiver may lead the nation in catches per game, but averages just 10.1 yards per reception with a 32-yard long. Sanu can be a threat down field and has the speed to beat plenty of corners on the fly. Give him a chance to make the big catch and blow the game open instead of a lot of little ones.

Three keys for a Syracuse win
1. Do the unexpected. Marrone had Rutgers totally unprepared in his signature victory of 2009. It is time to dip back into the bag of tricks to kick-start a team that barely escaped at home against teams like Wake Forest, Rhode Island and Toledo.

2. Knuckle up. In Syracuse's last two wins against Rutgers, the Orange totaled 13 sacks. In their last two losses, they registered just one.

3. Blow the roof off. An empty Carrier Dome is simply underwhelming. The crowd did not play a major factor in the first three home games, averaging just under 39,000 per game. If Syracuse can bring in 45,000 or more, then the crowd can be a factor.

Football 101
To help familiarize the less rabid fans with the X's and O's of college football, ScarletReport.com break down a factor relevant to each game before kickoff. This week, we break down the "silent count," which Rutgers plans to use to counter crowd noise in the Carrier Dome.

The silent count is exactly what it sounds like. When playing in a hostile, loud environment, it is tough for the road quarterback to verbally call out to receive the snap. Instead, he uses either hand signals or physical contact with the center.

The advantage is that it counteracts crowd noise and prevents the defense from pickup up on verbal cues. The disadvantage tends to be an increase in false starts, with the outside linemen going on the center's movement and not on verbal cues.

Prediction
Rutgers, 31, Syracuse 17

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