I like Paul Pasqualoni, I really do. He is a good coach and by all accounts a good guy.
But Paul Pasqualoni must go. Yes, PP is a good coach but he is, at best, a mediocre recruiter. It is now thirteen seasons into his tenure and Syracuse is but a shadow of the team he inherited. The Big East simply can't afford him anymore.
You see, the Big East is in a war.
If you listen to televised broadcasts of football games (even Big East games) you can't miss it. TV announcers sucking up to the new ACC as if that league was actually product instead of potential. If you believe what you hear, every top prospect from Maine to Miami is headed to tobacco road to be a part of the coming ACC world domination. If you believed what these guys say (including Big East announcers who should have been fired on the spot) there is no war between the Big East and the ACC because that war is over and won ... by the ACC. The Big East is now an "also ran" conference competing for whatever scraps that the ACC deigns to leave behind.
It is enough to make you sick.
It is also not true. The war has just begun.
Yes, the ACC dealt a huge blow to the Big East when it raided the BE last year. Yes, the ACC has some tantalizing match-ups in Virginia and Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Duke, Miami and Florida State. Yes, the ACC has the momentum.
But the war is far from over.
The huge media markets of the Northeast got a taste of college football madness with the old Big East. These fans just aren't going to abandon Pittsburgh for Wake Forest, West Virginia for Georgia Tech, Connecticut for Maryland or Syracuse for Clemson.
That just won't happen. The Big East, you might say, has a built-in trump card with all those "appetite whetted", rabid, Big East lunatics. These folks liked what they saw and they want more. These fans love their teams and want to root for them in a top notch league. But "top notch" is the stumbling block. To cash in on the "bankroll" of northeast sports loonies, the Big East has to provide a top product, and therein lies the problem.
Syracuse, long a flagship program for the Big East, is just one small step above "joke" status. So far, they have wins over Buffalo and Cincinnati and embarrassing defeats to Purdue and Virginia.
This won't get better. Syracuse recruiting, you see, has been bad and is getting worse. Greg Schiano has all but run Pasqualoni's folks out of New Jersey. And it isn't just Jersey. The Orange are losing Pennsylvania recruits to Pittsburgh, Connecticut recruits to UConn, New England recruits to Boston College and so on. Even in New York (not known as a hot bed of football talent) Syracuse generally beats out Buffalo ... and no one else. While the Syracuse reputation is enough to grab a good player here and there ... well, "a good player here and there" is what Terry Shea brought to Rutgers.
Enough said about that. A strong Syracuse is good for the Big East, but to become strong again the Orange need a coaching change and they need it now.
Rutgers has the horses to do it
Pasqualoni must go and Rutgers has the horses to send him on his way.
Many Rutgers fans have been down so long that they just can't bring themselves to believe the Rutgers now has more talent on their squad than Syracuse.
But it's true.
Let's look at the strongest position on the Syracuse team. That would have to be tailback where the Orange have both Walter Reyes and Damien Rhodes. Now let's match them up with Rutgers Brian Leonard and Justise Hairston. Right off the bat you'll think, at the very least, that that's a close match-up. Look further and you'll see more. Look at the stats and you'll see that Leonard is third in the Big East in rushing while Reyes is seventh. Leonard leads the league in receiving while neither Reyes nor Rhodes are in the top ten!
Now, let's look at the Knights' strongest unit and compare it with Syracuse. In my opinion, RU's strongest unit is tight end where RU has Clark Harris, Sam Johnson and Chris Loomis. Now match that against Syracuse's tights ends who are ..... Well, who? You have to look up the players' names and I won't bother listing them because you've never heard of them ... nor has the Big East Stat Book. That book has, indeed, heard of Clark Harris who is third in the Big East in receptions and averaging over 17 yards per catch.
Check it out position by position and you'll see the same thing. Rutgers is just a more talented football team than Syracuse and even a fair number of Syracuse fans will no longer dispute that fact.
Rutgers has the horses to send Pasqualoni packing and you can bet that if the Orange lose to the Knights two years running that the AD's office would find themselves pressured, no, besieged to make that change.
But will it happen
On offense Syracuse lost both starting QB RJ Anderson and the freakishly gifted Johnny Morant. Although Morant never lived up to his potential, he was a threat opponents had to watch on every down.
The Orange, however, still have a trump card in their sensational running back, Walter Reyes. Last year Reyes set a school record with 38 touchdowns. He also gained over 2,600 yards and he has a real chance to become Syracuse's all time leading rusher ahead of Joe Morris, Larry Csonka, Floyd Little, Jim Brown and Ernie Davis. Whew!
He shares time with an equally talented Damien Rhodes. They'll be running behind a fairly experienced offensive line whose main loss was two year starter Kevin Sampson.
So far, though, Reyes and Rhodes have been good but not great. They are seventh and tenth respectively in Big East rushing statistics.
At QB, there is no heir apparent to RJ Anderson and the SU receiving corps is the weakest in memory. In fact, to bolster the receivers Pasqualoni converted CB Stephen Gregory to WR. Pasqualoni has also told incoming wideout recruits that they can expect to play early! Perry Patterson has come on, of late, at quarterback but he still has no one to throw to.
On defense "smattering" is the word. Syracuse has a smattering of players with eye popping talent and a number of unknowns. The "smattering" consists of safety Anthony Smith (106 tackles, 5 interceptions and four pass break ups), Safety Diamond Ferry (120 tackles, 2 interceptions, 5 pass break ups), linebacker Kellen Pruett (96 tackles, 61 solos, 8.5 tackles for loss), and linebacker Kelvin Smith (a 2003 Sporting New freshman All American who had 68 tackles and 6 for a loss). Defensive end James Wyche is the only returning defensive linemen but he may be one of the "unknowns" to watch. The Syracuse staff love his potential.
Overall, the Orange definitely look "takeable".
The 'Cuse however have some intangibles to cash in on. They are playing home at the Dome. They know PP is history if they lose and they face the potential ignominy of losing to Rutgers two years in a row.
They should be ready for this game.
The Knights have some intangibles also. Like Michigan State, Syracuse is a name opponent that RU could definitely beat. Additionally, a second straight win over the Orange would give RU the credentials to become a first division team in the new Big East.
You don't believe that?
You can forget a vastly overrated Connecticut squad and both South Florida and Cincinnati simply haven't put it together as of this writing. If Rutgers beats the 'Cuse, Rutgers is in division one of the new Big East when it starts next year.
Which brings us to ....
With the transition to the new Big East, Rutgers fans want other conferences to see "red" when they think of the NBE's dominant teams.
One way or another, they just might.
While Rutgers has stumbled out of the gate this season, the Louisville Cardinals are off to the races. Louisville is quietly undefeated having most recently pasted North Carolina by a score of 34-0. There's a good chance that the Cards will find themselves undefeated at 4-0 going into a midseason contest with Miami. While an upset of the Hurricanes might be unlikely, it is not impossible. Hurricanes QB Brock Berlin is into year two of trying to find his rhythm and none of his receivers are in the class of the great Miami wideouts of the recent past. The Hurricane's "D" is still awesome but after seeing the Miami in a recent contest against Houston, I think that an upset is not out of the question.
Louisville vs. Miami, it'll be a game worth watching.
Mike and the Big Dog's LLC