After edging Ohio University last Saturday, 38-26, the Rutgers University football program begins Big East Conference play this Saturday at Syracuse University in the Carrier Dome. Starting at noon on the Big East Network, the Scarlet Knights (2-1) will try and snap a two-game losing streak to the Orange (3-1), who last year defeated Rutgers, 13-10, and also won in 2009, 31-13.
A victory Saturday would help Rutgers improve to 3-1 overall and earn its first league-opening victory since 2006. A win would also help the Scarlet Knights reclaim New York-New Jersey bragging rights, which are very important to both programs. However, beating Syracuse will be a tough assignment for Rutgers, which has lost both of its league-opening contests to the Orange.
Here's a quick look at the Scarlet Knights Week 4 opponent:
Opponent: Syracuse University Orange.
Head Coach: Doug Marrone.
In just two years, Marrone, a Bronx, native, has done an outstanding job of resurrecting the Syracuse football program, which just three years ago finished 1-6 in the Big East Conference. With the help of offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, Marrone has installed a a pro-style offense that features many formations similar to the New Orleans Saints -- the NFL franchise that Marrone was offensive coordinator for before taking the job at SU.
Offense: If it wasn't for the University of West Virginia senior quarterback Geno Smith or the University of South Florida's sophomore quarterback B.J. Daniels, SU's senior quarterback Ryan Nassib would be the talk of the Big East. Orange faithful expected Nassib to progress in his second-to-last year at SU, but they didn't expect him to be completing a league-best 71.4 percent of his passes with nine TDs and just one interception by Week 4. Nassib has been targeting senior wide receivers Van Chew (Big East-best 15.5 yards per catch) and Alec Lemon (25 receptions), and senior tight end Nick Provo (15 catches and two TDs).
Meanwhile, senior running back Antwon Bailey hasn't gotten off to the quick start that many were hoping for, but he did total 114 yards in the victory against Toledo. The Orange offensive line has giving up just two sacks in its last two games.
Defense: Currently, five key defensive players -- senior defensive end Chandler Jones, strong safeties junior Shamarko Thomas and senior Orland Fisher, and sophomore corner backs Keon Lyn and Ri'Shard Anderson -- are either injured or banged up. Jones, which entered the season as the Orange's defensive-play maker, has missed SU's past three games and more than likely wont play Saturday, while Fisher and Anderson have also missed games.
This hasn't helped the Orange defense, especially the secondary, which has allowed 276 passing yards per game (11.9 yards per catch) and 27.8 points per game. SU has also compiled just eight sacks on the season.
Conclusion: The Scarlet Knights have the Orange, who are 1 1/2-point favorites, right were they want them. SU's offense is one of, if not the, most potent in the Big East. However, it's defense has been very bad. If Rutgers' offense can sustain some drives, keep SU's offense off the field and make some plays there's no doubt that the Scarlet Knights can beat the Orange and snap their two-game winning streak.
Who will pull out the victory in this Big East rivalry? SB Nation New York will be examining the Syracuse vs. Rutgers game from now until Saturday night. Check back to this StoryStream for all your pregame, in-game and post-game information.