The Rutgers football team doesn't really need any more motivation going into Saturday afternoon's Big East match-up against Syracuse, but it does help when there's a bit of emotion factored in to this week's trip to the gridiron.
The Scarlet Knights, who moved back into the top 20 rankings for the first time since 2007, will face off against Syracuse (1-0, 2-3) for the 43rd and final time in series history this weekend, as they look to extend their win streak and undefeated 2012 record.
"For us, our motivation is to be 1-0 this week," Rutgers (2-0, 5-0) coach Kyle Flood said in his press conference earlier this week. "To me, we don't need any more motivation, really, than winning a Big East Championship Game. That's really where we're going."
Fresh off their 19-3 victory over Connecticut last week, the Scarlet Knights have found a rhythm and consistency that few other teams in the nation have been able to establish, bringing together all aspects of their game, from the offense to the defense to the special teams.
Together, Rutgers has racked up some of the most impressive stats in the nation, including the fifth stingiest defense; allowing, on average, just 10.8 points per game over the past five weeks.
"I was pleased with the way they performed," Flood said of his defensive line's performance against Connecticut last week. "But the guys that did play would have an opportunity to play again this week."
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Rutgers defense though, is its ability to shut down the run. Over five weeks the
Scarlet Knights have allowed just 60.6 rushing yards per game, ranking them the second amongst run defenses.
With both Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley averaging just under five yards a carry for Syracuse, Rutgers' ability to shut down both running backs could be a major factor in picking up their sixth victory of the season.
The Scarlet Knights are not simply a defensive powerhouse but a balanced offense, behind quarterback Gary Nova and running back Jawan Jamison, which they hope will be able to break open the Orange's notorious rush.
Jamison, who has six consecutive 100- yard rushing games to his name, will have to be at the core of that offensive effort, as Syracuse looks to blitz Nova constantly and consistently.
The Orange, who are second in sacks in Big East play, will look to go after Nova constantly, as the sophomore quarterback has racked up 1119 yards and the third-best quarterback rating in league play.
"They do it on film and they play good team defense and they play very aggressive defense," Flood said. "They play defense philosophically the way we do, even though the scheme is a little bit different. They want to make plays in their backfield."
A victory here would improve Rutgers to 6-0 for just the fifth time in the program's 143-year history. More importantly, though a victory would make Kyle Flood the first-ever Rutgers coach to begin his coaching tenure with the Scarlet Knights at 6-0.
The biggest question mark going into Saturday afternoon though, is Rutgers' freshman kicker Kyle Federico, who was injured after his final field goal in last week's victory against Connecticut.
As of Monday afternoon, Federico's situation was not concrete and Flood was not open to a discussion about it. The position, and Federico's return to the field this weekend, were both in flux, but as of early this week, no depth chart had been set yet.