‘Cuse looks to build on momentum at Rutgers
The Greg Robinson era at SU has reached the brink. Despite a 28-21 home win over Louisville last week, SU has fallen off the cliff and is holding on by mere fingertips. Within inner SU football circles, it's already been a hotly-debated topic as to who SU's next football coach will be. Rumors of a firm being hired by SU athletic director Dr. Daryl Gross have been bandied around over the last month. But despite all the distractions, the show must go on. And it shall this weekend in Piscataway, as the Orange look to improve on both sides of the ball.
You can see the Big East week preview for a more concise preview of the game, but anyhow, here goes. Curtis Brinkley has managed to run hog wild over whatever obstacles have been put in his way thus far this season and the Rutgers' defense shouldn't be one of the stiffer tests for him. Expect a similar game plan to what SU has used for much of the season. A heavy dose of Brinkley to weaken the defense, with Doug Hogue and Antwon Bailey serving as change-of-pace backs for the ‘Cuse. QB Cam Dantley has emerged into a solid caretaker of the offense. He hasn't been afraid to spread the wealth around, as he often finishes games with pass completions to nearly ten different receivers. It'll be up to the SU offense to run efficient drives, but long ones that keep the defense off the field.
That's because they'll be facing a much rejuvenated Rutgers team. One that's likely out of the Big East conference race, but one that could prove to be the biggest spoiler team of them all. One that just hung 54 points on a rather stout Pittsburgh Panthers' defense. One that's led by born-again QB Mike Teel, who can be one of the nation's premiere signal callers when he doesn't let his emotions get the best of him. A Rutgers team whose top wide receiver has more yards receiving (714) than its top two running backs have combined on the ground (649). A team that will be quick to exploit its strengths, especially since they match up well against SU's weaknesses. Those weaknesses, of course, comprise the walking wounded that are the SU secondary. This SU secondary is the same one that left numerous Louisville receivers open last weekend downfield and was bailed out by two timely drops from Cardinals receivers. While SU has made improvements on defense this season, the potent Scarlet Knights' passing attack will be a big test.
I expect Rutgers to put SU in the familiar position of being behind early, but I don't expect Greg Schiano's squad to make the same mistake that Louisville did. Rutgers is a rested, relatively healthy and motivated team that needs every win they can get to make a bowl game. Expect this to be a close game into the fourth quarter before Rutgers pulls away with a long passing strike. The pick: Rutgers 27, Syracuse 17 and the keys for each team to win follow below.
1) Establish Curtis Brinkley on the ground to set up Cam Dantley play action and downfield passes.
2) Win the turnover battle and the battle of the clock.
3) Shut down the Rutgers running game. By shut down, I mean less than fifty total yards.
4) Develop the "bounce back" mentality. Don't let one long pass or run play dictate how the next few plays go for the defense. The defense can't be on the field for long, double-digit play drives. The team has developed more stamina through the byes and will need to play a full sixty minute game to win. If you remember one thing about SU football for the next few years, remember this: Nothing's ever going to come easy.
5) Get a little help from above with the weather. Rain and/or wind would likely slow down the aerial attacks, which would likely favor SU.
1) Score early and often to get the crowd into it. They know this team has potential and they want to get into the game.
2) Victimize SU's secondary with numerous downfield shots. But balance it out by establishing a running game.
3) Shut down Curtis Brinkley. Easier said than done.
4) Be consistent throughout the game. Rutgers has scored 171 points this season. 92 of them came in just two games, leaving the Scarlet Knights scoring an average of just over thirteen points per game in their other six contests this season. So, if Rutgers scores twenty, they're likely to win (2-1 this year when doing so).
5) Don't let it come down to a field goal. Any gambling man would take Patrick Shadle over San San Te and on that note; SU actually has one of the Big East's best special teams units in general.
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