Preview: Rutgers-Syracuse

Coming off a bye week and trying to extend a two-game Big East winning streak that included an impressive 54-34 victory at Pittsburgh on Oct. 25, Rutgers (3-5, 2-2 Big East) returns home to take on a Syracuse (2-6, 1-3) squad that notched its first win against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent last week when it toppled Louisville for the second straight year.

TIME/TV

Kickoff at Rutgers Stadium is scheduled for noon Eastern Time on ESPNU. Dave Armstrong and Larry Coker will call the game, with Melissa Knowles serving as the sideline reporter.


SCOUTING SYRACUSE

The Orange have two Big East wins the past two seasons - both of them against Louisville. Syracuse ambushed the Cardinals again, this time ringing up a 28-21 victory after answering an early Louisville touchdown with 21 straight points. That was the Orange's first victory against an FBS opponent this year and their first over an FBS team since Oct. 20, 2007, stopping a streak of 10 consecutive losses to FBS schools.

OFFENSE

The Orange have learned to run the ball in recent weeks, led by Curtis Brinkley. The senior running back set a school record last week with his fifth consecutive 100-yard game, a pretty impressive feat when you consider all the great backs who have played at Syracuse. Rutgers, by comparison, only has three 100-yard games as a team this year and none in the last five games. Brinkley tallied 166 yards and one touchdown on 33 carries to run his season total to 899 yards and five touchdowns on 165 runs (5.45 yards per carry). He has quietly become the nation's 15th leading rusher with 112.4 yards per game.

Outside of Brinkley, the Orange have not been able to do much offensively and are ranked 103rd or worse out of 119 FBS teams in passing offense (145.8 yards per game), total offense (299.9 ypg), first-down offense (15.4 per game) and scoring offense (19 points per game). Quarterback Cam Dantley averages 151.4 yards per game, but he has thrown nine touchdowns to just three interceptions.

It looks like the experiment with the pistol offense failed in Syracuse, as the Orange seem to have employed more traditional sets to get Brinkley the ball.

The Orange go up against a Rutgers defense that has performed fairly well against the Big East's top rushers, though Pittsburgh's LeSean McCoy lit up the Knights for 146 yards and four touchdowns in a 54-34 Rutgers win on Oct. 25. RU is next to last in the conference in overall rushing defense 149.3 ypg) and total defense (347.3 ypg). In two games against the Scarlet Knights, Brinkley has 149 yards and one touchdown on 28 carries (5.3 yards per rush).


DEFENSE

Syracuse is allowing more than 30 points per game this year and is yielding 427.3 yards per game. The Orange, who have given up at least 40 points in three game this season, are last in the conference in rushing defense (203.3 ypg), sacks (one per game), pass efficiency defense (147.38), scoring defense (33.1 points per game) and total defense. Syracuse is next to the bottom in pass defense (224 ypg).

That could be bad news for the Orange if Rutgers picks up where it left off in the Pitt game. RU, which averages 227.5 yards per game through the air, racked up 371 yards passing and six aerial touchdowns versus the Panthers, as Mike Teel set a school record for TD passes in a game while spreading out the scoring to three different players.


SPECIAL TEAMS

Punter Rob Long leads the Big East with a 46.3 yard average, but five of his 40 kicks have resulted in touchbacks while fewer than quarter have ended up inside the opponents' 20-yard line. By comparison, RU's Teddy Dellaganna has stuck opponents inside their own 20 on 14 of his 45 punts while recording only three touchbacks.

Syracuse place-kicker Patrick Shadle has been solid this season, connecting on his last 10 field goal attempts and 11 overall. Shadle, who has not missed an attempt since a 51-yarder at Northwestern in the opener, has connected on five field goal tries beyond 40 yards, including a 53-yard rocket Oct. 11 at West Virginia that set a record for longest field goal made at Mountaineer Field.

HEAD TO HEAD

Rutgers has won three straight games in this series and four of the past five after losing 11 of the first 12 Big East meetings between the teams. Syracuse leads the all-time series 28-9-1.

Last season SU jumped out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead, but Rutgers blew past the Orange with the next 38 points to register the 38-14 trouncing at the Carrier Dome.

TRENDS/NOTES

Rutgers is 5-10 coming off a bye week under head coach Greg Schiano and 0-3 since the start of last season. The Scarlet Knights lost 44-12 to North Carolina Sept. 11 after a bye week. . . . During three straight victories over Syracuse, the Scarlet nights have defeated the Orange by an average score of 36-10. . . . Quarterback Mike Teel was not only named Big East Offensive Player of the Week following his six-touchdown, 361-yard passing performance against Pitt, he also earned USA Today's national award for offensive player of the week following that performance. . . . . Fifteen Rutgers players came out of New York, including both starting cornerbacks (Jason and Devin McCourty) and starting free safety Courtney Greene.

Syracuse now has three Big East victories in head coach Greg Robinson's fourth year in Western New York. The Orange own two wins against Louisville and one versus Connecticut. . . . Nine SU players hail from the Garden State. . . . Syracuse, 0-3 on the road this season, plays three of its final four games away from home. . . . This gem comes from the end of the Louisville game story on Syracuse's Web site: "Syracuse will travel to East Rutherford, N.J. next week to take on Rutgers on Saturday, November 8." The Scarlet Knights have not played a game at Giants Stadium since 1996 and have only faced Syracuse at the site three times: in 1982, in 1991 and in 1993 while Rutgers Stadium was renovated.


WEATHER

There seems to be wet weather on the way for this matchup, according to the National Weather Service. There is a 50% chance of showers on Saturday with a high in the low 60s.


Scarlet Report Top Stories