The Rutgers Scarlet Knights open up Big East play this weekend with a trip to the Carrier Dome to take on the Syracuse Orange. Saturday’s kickoff is scheduled for 12:08pm. Syracuse enters this game at 3-1 while Rutgers is 2-1, coming off a big win over Ohio University.
The two schools are very familiar with one another as this will be the 42nd meeting of the two. Syracuse holds a 30-10-1 advantage but Rutgers has won three of the last five.
The fanbases of these two schools are no strangers either. Make no mistake about it, they do not like each other either. This is a rivalry the fans enjoy.
This week we continue our Through Enemy Eyes project by speaking with Syracuse football blogger Sean Keeley. Sean is the creator of a Syracuse football site called, Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician. The long time Syracuse fan answered some questions and gives his take on the upcoming battle…
Double G Sports: What is your overall opinion of the Rutgers 2011 team?
Sean: I think they’ll go as far as their offensive line takes them. Take it from a Syracuse football fan, your offensive line can turn an offense full of weapons into a useless pile of glop if it can’t protect the QB. So, if those guys are able to sort it out, I think Rutgers has a reasonable chance to find itself in the 6-6 realm. Remember, it’s the Big East, everyone is in play.
Double G Sports: Which Rutgers offensive player worries you the most?
Sean: Mohamed Sanu, for sure. Syracuse’s weakest unit all year has been our secondary. We’ve given up career days to receivers at USC and Toledo and made everyone’s QB look like an all-star. A lot of it has to do with injuries but we’ve also lined up against some talented wideouts. A guy like Sanu can definitely put up some numbers and make a big play or two so SU fans are wary.
Double G Sports: What Rutgers defensive player can do the most damage against your team?
Sean: I’ll go with defensive lineman Justin Francis. He’s leading Rutgers’ sack attack this year and he got to Nassib a bunch of times last year. Nassib is the reason Syracuse has won some games they should or should not have this year. If he’s protected, he’s going to control the offense and put SU in a good position. If he’s hurried, sacked and flushed out, then SU is in trouble. Francis seems like the most likely guy to make that happen.
Double G Sports: What part of the Rutgers team is the most threatening to you?
Sean: Certainly the passing attack. Syracuse has been decimated all season in the secondary and it sounds like a lot of those injuries haven’t healed. That means we’re going to have a lot of young, inexperienced guys back there. With a talented receiver like Sanu running around, that spells danger.
Double G Sports: What Syracuse player (on either side of the ball) can do the most damage against Rutgers?
Sean: Syracuse is all about Ryan Nassib in 2011. His completion percentage so far is off the charts and his ability to put the Orange on his back has been infectious. He’s seemingly ahead of schedule in terms of development and has really blossomed as a leader. He even showed some fire last week when he got pissed off over an errant snap, something we hadn’t seen from him. If he’s hot and goes on a completion-streak, look out. He’s got a lot of weapons at his disposal at the WR, TE, and RB positions and he knows how to make quick decisions and get the ball to all of them.
Double G Sports: How do you think the Syracuse Orange match up against Rutgers this year?
Sean: The more I think about it, the more it feels like a fairly even battle. We both have the ability to be explosive on offense but we both are severely limited by our secondary play. This could end up being a real shootout if things keep up the way they’ve been going.
Double G Sports: What can we expect from Syracuse in all aspects of the game, offense, defense, special teams?
Sean: I expect to see a Syracuse offense that tries its damnedest to establish the run. It’s been a signature of OC Nate Hackett to try and get Antwon Bailey his carries, results to be damned. Failing that, Nassib is always there to kick-start the offense with some steady, short completions.
Defensively, I’m sure Rutgers is going to try and test our defensive backs. If they can hold, or at least limit the passing attack, we’re hopeful that DE Chandler Jones is back from injury so he can get back to disrupting the line of scrimmage.
On special teams, freshman Jon Fisher has come into his own after winning back the starting spot. Errant extra point aside, Ross Krautman is dependable. Jeremiah Kobena is getting more and more experience on the kick returns. One of these days he’s going to break one.
Double G Sports: Do you think Syracuse leaving the Big East should provide teams extra motivation to beat the Orange?
Sean: I’m sure it will give Big East fans a little extra motivation to dislike us. As for Rutgers, I hardly think Scarlet Knights fans need any more motivation to root against SU.
Double G Sports: On paper, it would appear that the Scarlet Knight could win a mascot battle against the Orange. What about the Orange would challenge a Knight?
Sean: When squeezed, his orange juice could really sting if the Knight gets that in his eye. it’s a sneak attack, but you use what works.
Double G Sports: Do you feel more or less confident that Syracuse can defeat Rutgers than you did in the preseason?
Sean: Probably a little less confident, but I still feel confident enough to predict victory. While not impressive to most, I think the Orange’s three victories have proven that the team has the ability to weather most storms and fight until the very end.
Double G Sports: Game Prediction….
Sean: After a slow start while both teams try to establish the run, the wide receivers break out and a shootout ensues. In a game that comes down to the wire, Syracuse survives in front of the Dome crowd, 35-28.