I’ve been screaming about this all season long from week 1 regarding the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Yes they are 5-0. Yes they are ranked 19th in the country, their highest ranking since Ray Rice brought them to unprecedented heights in 2006. Their vaunted defense has only allowed 10.8 PPG, good for 5th in the nation.
But lets take a look at the numbers. They put up great defensive numbers in wins over Tulane, Howard, South Florida, and UConn. Two pushovers and two bottom feeders in the Big East so far this season. Their game against an Arkansas team that was in the rock bottom of their season? The Scarlet Knights gave up 492 yards of total offense. The Scarlet Knights dominated the time of possession, and outscored the Razorbacks for the win.
I understand that winning the game is all that matters at the end of the day, but the Scarlet Knights are very favorable with their strength of schedule so far this season. In games against UConn and South Florida, Rutgers had very timely turnovers that were absolutely game changers. South Florida had 3 drives of over 50 yards that resulted in turnovers, and Connecticut had a few miscues and mistakes including a fumbled punt inside their own ten last week in their game at Piscataway.
A bend but don’t break defense very rarely holds up all season long.
On the other side of the ball, the Scarlet Knights have been pedestrian all season, ranking 80th in rushing, and 72nd in passing. In comparison, Syracuse is worse in rushing at 84th, but much better in passing at 17th. Last Friday against Pittsburgh, the running game seemed to find it’s way with the return of Justin Pugh to the offensive line, while the passing game is what struggled.
Syracuse has played much more difficult opponents to this point, and should be more than prepared to face a Rutgers team who is undefeated on a soft schedule this season. Tulane is 0-5. Their closest win aside from their 12 point loss to Rutgers? A 35 point loss to Tulsa. Howard is 4-1 with wins over Morehouse, Norfolk State, Savannah State, and Florida A&M. South Florida has wins against Chattanooga and Nevada this season, and UConn has probably the best resume of any team on Rutgers’ schedule so far having beaten Maryland and Buffalo.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am by no means calling for a Syracuse blowout. At the end of the day, Rutgers still won the games they were supposed to win, and they can’t help that Arkansas’ program did a 180 from last season. It is impressive that the Scarlet Knights are 5-0 with a new head coach in Kyle Flood, but for them to be undefeated at this point they have been relatively fortunate in my opinion. The defense forced important turnovers in their two Big East games, but at the same time a large portion of the responsibility on some of those turnovers fell on USF and UConn.
Syracuse is a combined total of 8 points away from being 4-1 against a much more difficult schedule than what Rutgers has played. Syracuse without a doubt has the talent to win, and record aside matches Rutgers step for step in every other facet of the game. The game opens at Syracuse +7.5 points, and personally I would be very confident in taking that. I believe that come Saturday the line will be much closer, because once people start looking at the numbers they will realize that there really isn’t a large discrepancy between these two teams.
This is a very winnable game for Syracuse, and anyone who would be surprised to hear that statement I believe isn’t paying close enough attention. Syracuse has lacked consistency this season, and if they can have a good (not even great) day, they can put pressure on the Scarlet Knights and will be in a great position to win the game.
Check back throughout the week for previews, predictions, and everything Syracuse-Rutgers heading in to this big game in New Jersey!