The Doug Marrone Era has been marked with pleasant surprises. The Northwestern win. The 6-2 start to this season. Wins over West Virginia, USF and Cincy.
However nothing that's happened on the field has been quite as pleasant as last year's 31-13 beatdown of Rutgers. There was no warning this was coming. We had every reason to believe Rutgers was going to beat us. Mike Williams had just quit the team, injuries had plagued the starters and SU was being dominated by the usual suspects. In this one, however, the Orange did the dominating.
The rules have changed this year. The Orange are no longer the underdog with nothing to lose. Bowl bids and renewed legitimacy are on the line. So are bragging rights and recruiting advantages. The Knights are the ones playing with a chip on their shoulder this time. The Orange simple have the "seven win" cloud following them ominously around until they eventually make it.
There's plenty of things SU has to do to get the W in this one. Namely though, they need to prove that they can shut down the run, unlike last week:
SU’s failure to stop Louisville’s ground game in the second half last week was the major factor in its 28-20 loss. The front seven had rarely been bullied to such an extent this season. Was it a fluke or an omen? Rutgers will try to find out. The best way to negate SU’s pressure on the QB — it recorded nine sacks last season vs. Rutgers — is to run the ball effectively. SU must stop the ground game cold.
In general, the Syracuse defense needs to get its swagger back. They not only have to shut down the Rutgers run game buy also put the ball in the hands of freshman QB Chas Dodd and make him try to beat them.
"You stop the run. And if you can stop the run and force an offense to be one-dimensional ... even though maybe they choose to be a passing offense first and a run offense second, if you can eliminate the run and force them to throw, then maybe you have some opportunities to have some pressures and that sort of thing to give the kids a chance to really tee off on them."
Ryan Nassib and Rob Long are two of the team's leaders but they're also intrinsically-linked from their high school and Syracuse careers. The two Pennsylvania boys originally bonded when Long showed Nassib around during his official visit. Now, Long is one of the best punters in the nation and Nassib is slowly starting to come into his own as the leader of this offense:
"I feel like I've learned a lot," he said. "Each and every week, I learn from my mistakes. I feel like a lot of the mistakes I was making in August, I'm not really making them right now. I feel like the game is starting to slow down. I'm starting to have fun. It's not only my first year starting. We got a lot of first-year starters. I'm just happy to be a part of a team that is turning around the culture - really getting the players going and seeing how fun it is to win games."
The Orange better hope Michael Hay is back and ready to go as promised. His back-up, Ian Allport, is officially out for the game. For the Knights, starting junior linebacker Manny Abreu, who has missed the past two games with a knee injury, will return.
For the game, the school will hang a banner in the stadium -- most likely in the student section -- as a tribute to LeGrand. Before kickoff, from noon until 1:30 p.m., fans can sign the "BELIEVE 52'' banner to honor LeGrand at the Scarlet Walk (next to gate D).
Besides hanging the banner, t-shirts will be handed out in the student section before the game that form a number 52 and the school band will perform a routine in which it forms a number 52, said a school spokesman.
Syracuse At Rutgers: More Than A Game At Stake...SB Nation NY
Syracuse - Rutgers Official Idiotic Predictions...Three Idiots on Sports
Rutgers Quick Predictions...Orange44
Watch SU at Rutgers on ESPNU Saturday...SUAthletics.com
Color of money: Scarlet over Orange...NY Post
Syracuse's Nassib looks for bowl bid...Philadelphia Inquirer
|Bud Poliquin: Orange against Rutgers|