The Syracuse football team may very well be facing one of its toughest opponents of the season this Saturday afternoon; but it isn't just about the statistics either.
The Orange (1-0, 2-3) return to High Point Solutions Stadium for the 43rd all-time meeting between Syracuse and a nationally-ranked Rutgers (2-0, 5-0) squad in a game that pits the two teams against each other in a battle for the New York-area.
In recent years, both squads have attempted to call themselves "New York's team," and both teams have tried to recruit from the same metropolitan area, but on Saturday afternoon, the Orange and the Scarlet Knights battle simply for Big East supremacy in what most likely will be their final league meeting before Syracuse moves to the ACC.
"I think it's a statement on where we're at this college football," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said of the game and Syracuse's impending move. "Change has become the new norm, and unfortunately some traditional games that have been played over the years won't be played anymore."
It won't be an easy battle for the Orange though, whose last two meetings against Rutgers have been decided by a three-point differential.
Last season, the Scarlet Knights earned a 19-16 double overtime victory over Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. This time around though, things are different and the Orange are determined to not let the final outcome depend on the final minutes of play.
Instead, paced by their dominant pass rush, Syracuse is brimming with confidence when it comes to their ability to stifle Rutgers' solid offensive attack in both the air and on the ground.
"A very aggressive style of defense, attacking style of defense, certainly gave us a lot of problems last year," Flood said of the Orange. "It will be a great challenge for us to move the ball this week and score points."
Defensive end Brandon Sharpe comes into this weekend's game as the core of the Syracuse defensive line. Fresh off a seven-tackle, four-sack performance in last week's 14-13 victory over Pittsburgh, the reigning Big East Conference Defensive Player of the Week, is anxious to shut down an offense for the second straight week.
Syracuse entered last week's game allowing an average of 176.3 rushing yards, but walked off the field allowing just 27 yards on 37 carries from Pittsburgh. That's a particularly important stat as the Orange line up against the Big East's top rusher in Jawan Jamison, who has six straight 100-yard games for the Scarlet Knights.
The Orange are going to need their defensive edge though, as they bring in an offense that has scored just two touchdowns over the last two games, while senior quarterback Ryan Nassib finished those same games with three interceptions.
In a league matchup that's brimming with tradition and rivalry, Saturday's Syracuse-Rutgers game may be the most well remembered of them all; a final face off on the field between two teams just looking for a little glory.