Syracuse (2-6, 1-3 Big East) is coming off its biggest victory of the season, a 28-21 win over Louisville last week. Rutgers (3-5, 2-2) also notched a win in its last outing, a 54-34 decision at Pittsburgh. Will Syracuse catch RU for its first win over the Scarlet Knights since 2004, or can Rutgers keep the winning streak alive?
Who Has the Edge in the Syracuse-Rutgers game?
SYRACUSE'S OFFENSE VS. RUTGERS' DEFENSE
Syracuse running back Curtis Brinkley has quietly turned in a consistent season in 2008, as he has notched five consecutive 100-yard games. Granted, the Orange are 2-3 over that span, but Brinkley is fourth in the Big East and 15th nationally with 112.4 yards per game. Last week against Louisville, he ran for 166 yards and scored a touchdown in the win. Outside of Brinkley, Syracuse's offense hasn't done much, averaging a league-worst 299.9 yards of total offense per game and just 19 points per game. The only team in the league with a lower-ranked passing offense is West Virginia, which has plenty of athletes in the running game to make up for it. Four teams have held the Orange below 300 yards of total offense this year.
LeSean McCoy gashed the RU defense for 146 yards and four touchdowns two weeks ago, but he also plays for a team that has the ability to pass the ball. RU gave up 348 yards passing to Pittsburgh, which opened up McCoy's game. RU's defense has been solid, if not spectacular this season, and the Scarlet Knights held two of the league's three best rushers -- West Virginia's Noel Devine and Connecticut's Donald Brown -- in check. RU is most effective when it can key the run.
RU'S OFFENSE VS. SYRACUSE'S DEFENSE
Fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Teel had a breakout game against Pittsburgh, passing for a school-record six touchdowns and a Big East-record five first-half TDs in the 54-34 win. He threw scoring passes to three different receivers: three to Kenny Britt, two to Tim Brown and one to Kevin Brock. Teel now averages 215.4 yards passing per game and has thrown nine TDs to eight interceptions (eight TDs and two picks over the last five games). Britt, who had not registered a receiving touchdown this year until the Pitt game, leads the Big East and is seventh in college football with 102 yards per game. He has notched four 100-yard games this year, including three of the last four outings.
RU struggles in the running game this season and is last in the conference in rushing yards per game (103.3 yards per game). Redshirt sophomore tailback Kordell Young has not reached the 100-yard mark in four games played this season.
Syracuse has been awful defensively this season, as the Orange yield 33.1 points per game, 203.3 rushing yards per game and 427.3 total yards per game. The Orange have been outscored by an average margin of 29-17 in four Big East games this season. SU is 0-3 on the road this year, losing by an average of more than 20 points per game. Five teams have registered at least 400 yards of total offense against the Orange this year, and SU's secondary looks to be a little banged up heading into this contest.
Syracuse has one of the most accurate kickers in the Big East and statistically the punter with the best leg. Place-kicker Patrick Shadle has made 10 kicks in a row, including five from beyond 40 yards. Punter Rob Long leads the Big East with a 46.3 yards per punt average.
Rutgers punter Teddy Dellaganna has improved each game this season, and he is averaging 42.4 yards per kick this season, including a 61-yarder versus Pitt two weeks ago. Place-kicker San San Te is getting better as well, but he missed two extra points against Pittsburgh on Oct. 25 (one was blocked).
Neither team has much of a kickoff or punt return game to speak of.
Phillip Fulmer is on his way out in Tennessee. Kansas State is showing Ron Prince the door. Washington is getting rid of Tyrone Willingham this year. With so many coaches getting the pink slip this year, it's a wonder that Greg Robinson, with a 9-34 overall record (3-22 Big East) still has a job in Syracuse.
This has been Greg Schiano's toughest coaching year at Rutgers since the first couple of seasons on the Banks. But his team has won two Big East games in a row and is looking at making it three straight heading into next week's tilt at South Florida. If things continue to turn around, Rutgers could qualify for its fourth consecutive bowl bid later this year.
Syracuse's uniforms are understated and have a throwback look to them. However, there's something disconcerting about the Orange uniforms, especially when SU went to the monochromatic look that made its players look like road cones last year. Florida and Boise State seem to pull off the orange and blue look with more success.
I still like the block R that Rutgers sports, and it gets noticed anywhere around the country. Plus, red is a better color than Orange.
Syracuse got a breath of life last week in beating Louisville for the second consecutive week. The Orange forced two turnovers and hung on late to secure their third Big East victory under head coach Greg Robinson. Brinkley is playing well, and the Orange have to have a renewed sense of pride and confidence.
Rutgers' season was pronounced DOA by many following a 23-21 loss at Navy Sept. 20. Suddenly, after two straight conference wins, people are discussing postseason possibilities for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers still has to at least win three of its last four games for that to happen, but the Knights are playing a lot better now than in the first few weeks of the year.
HEAD TO HEAD
Syracuse dominated the series between the schools for the first 33 games, but RU has held a distinct advantage since 2003. The Scarlet Knights have taken three straight against the Orange and have won four out of the last five in the series. RU has dominated the last three games, winning by an average of 25 points per game.
Syracuse is mired in its worst stretch of football in decade. SU, a national program that was accustomed to going to bowl games year-in and year-out, has not posted a winning season since 2001 and is more than 20 games under .500 since Robinson arrived.
Rutgers, traditionally one of college football's doormats, is 33-24 since 2004, 29-17 since 2005. The Scarlet Knights have been to three straight bowl games and have won two of them.