The View From Here: The October Schedule | Syracusefan.com

The View From Here: The October Schedule

SWC75

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Saturday October 1st Noon in the Dome vs. Rutgers TV: Big East Network

Rutgers is kind of like Wake Forest- a perennial doormat who turned tiger in 2006, winning 11 games. They were good for several years afterwards, winning 8, 8 and 9 games before slipping back to 4-8 last year with only one conference win, losing their last six games. They have been a thorn in Syracuse’s side because, essentially, they became what we had been and we became what they had been. They were a symbol of our collapse. They are also probably our leading recruiting rival because we used to get a lot of players from New Jersey, (a much more productive state for football prospects than New York), but their coach Greg Schiano vowed to “build a fence around the state” to prevent that and also raided some New York players that had committed to Paul Pasqualoni and decommitted when he was fired. SU fans not only want SU to be good again but they want Rutgers to be bad again. Then all will be right with the world again. When Doug Marrone’s first team crushed the Scarlet Knights in the Dome, 31-13, it was a huge thing and beating them in their own place last year on a last second field goal, 13-10 to become bowl eligible was another nail in the coffin - we hope.

But Rutgers isn’t Wake Forest. They are the State University of New Jersey, the same way Penn State is for Pennsylvania and Ohio State is for Ohio. New York has no equivalent- just a lot of smaller schools like Cortland State, Oswego State, Albany State, etch. SU likes to advertise itself as “New York State’s College Team” but we are still a private school, a third the size of Rutgers. It’s always been said that if they ever got their program going, the could become a major football power. Schiano is still there and they are still recruiting strongly, including Savon Huggins, one of the top running back prospects in the country. They aren’t going away. A more likely prospect is that Syracuse will develop something they haven’t had since the Colgate and Penn State days: a genuine rivalry. (We could also develop one with Connecticut- it could be a three-way rivalry). The problem is, SU fans have such contempt for Rutgers and Connecticut they refuse to consider them rivals. I think that’s a mistake: rivalries are the heart and soul of college sports and when one seems to be developing, we should welcome it.

Rutgers’ big problem last year was an implosion at quarterback. Tom Savage was supposed to be the star but instead became an asterisk when he got hurt and then decided to transfer. Freshman Chas Dodd took over and struggled enough that Schiano spent most of the Syracuse game running Jeremy Deering, a wide receiver by trade, out of the wildcat formation. Their leading rusher, Jordan Thomas, gained only 417 yards and switched to defense when Huggins committed. They have two excellent receivers in Mark Harrison, (44 catches for an impressive 829 yards and 9 scores and Mohammed Sanu, who also caught 44 for 418 and 2 scores. He also ran for 309 yards. Athlon calls them the Big East’s best tandem of wide-outs). DC Jefferson is a good tight end.

Defensively, Rutgers loses six starters from a unit that sprang some leaks, including a 38-69 disaster at Cincinnati. Like Marrone, Schiano is promoting faster players into the starting line-up, making his two safeties into linebackers. He’s also moved a couple of guys over from offense, including Thomas. It will be interesting to see how the players respond to their new responsibilities. Tackle Scott Vallone is a “rising star” on the defensive line.

They have a good placekicker named San San Te but the punting is a question mark. Mason Robinson is a good kick returner.
It would be a great coup to beat Rutgers for the third straight year after losing to them four times in a row but I don’t think this series will ever return to the “good old days”. It’s going to be a struggle every year.

Their stats from last year:
Offense- rushing 100.9 (101st) passing 194.0 (79th), total 294.9 (114th) scoring 20.8 (101st)
Defense- rushing 156.4 (65th) passing 217.8 (55th) total 374.2 (65th) scoring 26.5 (62nd)
Turnover margin: +7 (26th)
 

SWC75

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Saturday October 8th 8PM at Tulane No TV or TBA

Former UCLA coach Bob Toledo, (we play Toledo twice this year), is on the “hot seat” after going a G-Robesque 13-35 in his first four years. But he says “Many of our players are now sophomores and juniors and starting to develop physically. This is the best group we‘ve had since I‘ve been here.” It had better be. Ryan Griffin is a solid quarterback. Still another running back with an interesting name, Orleans Darkwa gained 925 yards as a freshman. Ryan Grant is the best receiver but nothing special at 33/515/4. The line lacks depth, (but so does ours).

The defense is led by linebacker Trent Mackey who led the nation in tackles two weeks in a row. Cornerback Jordan Sullen might wind up playing on Sundays. But this group gave up 37 points a game last year , including a 14-61 loss to Central Florida.

They have a good kicker in Cairo Santos but Toledo complains that “special teams cost us some games last year.”

This is a team we should beat but the Dome it’s in isn’t ours and their coach is trying to keep his job. If his team likes him, they’ll give beating us a big effort.

Their stats from last year:
Offense- rushing 127.5 (91st) passing 245.8 (38th), total 373.3 (66th) scoring 24.9 (80th)
Defense- rushing 195.5 (101st) passing 194.6 (28th) total 390.1 (74th) scoring 37.2 (110th)
Turnover margin: -2 (68th)
We get an off week before beginning the second half of the schedule. We have a good shot at being 5-1 at this point and we may have to be because things get a lot tougher in the second half. Also, while we have better depth this year, we’ve shown a tendency to fade down the stretch.
 

SWC75

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Friday October 21st 8PM in the Dome vs. West Virginia TV: ESPN or ESPN 2

The Mountaineers are the closest thing to a national power in the Big East. They are 60-17 since the conference re-organized and were the last Big East champion to win a BCS Bowl game, Cincinnati and Connecticut have been blown out in the last three.) But they are in turmoil. First Rich Rodriguez left his alma mater to coach at Michigan, (where he’s since been fired). His replacement, Bill Stewart, a long time member of the Mountaineer staff who was popular with his players. But when he followed up three straight 11 win seasons with three straight 9-4 seasons, the administration decided to get rid of him. And they decided to do it in a most awkward fashion. They chose as his replacement Dana Holgerson, who had earned a reputation as an offensive genius as the coordinator at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State. But they didn’t fire Stewart. Instead they appointed Holgerson his offensive co-coordinator and “head coach in waiting”. Stewart responded by asking newspaper friends to “dig up negative information” about Holgerson. When AD Oliver Luck, (Andrew’s Dad),, found out about it, he fired Stewart so Holgerson is no longer “waiting”

What Stewart’s players think about this and how well they will fit into Holgerson’s system is unknown. But West Virginia has been established as the heavy favorite to win the conference, in part because of Holgerson’s reputation as an offensive genius. Rodriguez had a similar reputation when he came to Morgantown and lived up to it. The concept seems to be that Stewart was a mental lightweight compared to the geniuses and now that problem ahs been fixed. We’ll see.

Holgerson will have a top quarterback to work with in Geno Smith, who overcame two foot operations to have a fine year with 241 completions in 372 attempts, (.648) for 2763 yards 24TDs and 7 interceptions. That, again, is what we are hoping for from Ryan Nassib this year but Smith may move on to a new level himself under Holgerson, whose Oklahoma State offense gained more yards than anybody in the country last season, (yes more than Auburn, Oregon, Boise State, etc.). His quarterback there was 343/511 for 4277 yards, 34TDs and 13 picks. If Smith can stay healthy he may duplicate those numbers because Holgerson describes the West Virginia receiving corps as “probably the best looking group I’ve had”. Yavon Austin is the big threat but highly recruited 6-3 Ivan McCartney could have a break-out year. Bradley Starks is a speedy deep threat and Stedman Bailey caught 24 balls for 317 yard and 4 scores as a freshman. What they don’t have is a major running threat after years of watching Steve Slaton and Noel Devine speed through defenses for long scores. But he may find one: amid all the passing, Okie State had a tailback, (Kendall Hunter), find holes for 1548 yards rushing last year. The holes will likely be there- can Holgerson find the runner to exploit them?

Actually the real story in Morgantown since Rodriguez left has been the defenses of coordinator Jeff Casteel, which have been ranked #8, #11, #31 and #3 nationally in scoring defense the last four years. A Holgerson offense combined with a Casteel defense would be a formidable combination. They only have four starters back on defense but one is cornerback Keith Tandy, an All-America candidate. Bruce Irvin was second nationally in sacks with 14 from his defensive end position- and he only played on third downs.

Their place kicker, Tyler Bitancourt had a shaky year last year and they are looking for a new punter. They have plenty of fast guys to return kicks.
We beat these guys in their place last year and have them in the Dome this year but they appear to be the class of the conference and could turn out to be the best team we play, maybe better than USC. Beating them twice in a row would be a huge accomplishment.

Their stats from last year:
Offense- rushing 159.7 (50th) passing 213.0 (67th), total 372.7 (67th) scoring 25.2 (78th)
Defense- rushing 86.5 (2nd) passing 174.6 (11th) total 261.1 (3rd ) scoring 13.5 (3rd )
Turnover margin: -5 (80th)
 

SWC75

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Saturday October 29th Time TBA (to be announced) at Louisville No TV or TBA

Maybe the worst coach of all time was Louisville’s Steve Kragthorpe, who took a school that had gone 41-9 under Bobby Petrino and went 15-21 including 0-2 vs. Greg Robinson! While West Virginia and Pittsburgh have brought in guys famous for wide-open offenses, Louisville replaced Kragthorpe with the well-named Charlie Strong, who loves his teams to muscle up and dominate the line of scrimmage. They sure did that to us in the Dome last year. Unfortunately they had serious graduation losses on both sides of the ball, including their quarterback, leading rusher, four of those big strong offensive lineman, their two top linebackers and his two starting quarterbacks. So the Cardinals may be taking a step back this year.

But everybody thinks Strong will keep Louisville strong as long as he’s there. He seems like the real deal and also knows how to recruit Florida, (he came from Florida State). Of 22 recruits in his last class, which ranked among the top 30 in the nation, 13 were from the sunshine state. The class included 6 defensive backs, some of whom may wind up at linebacker, so he wants to get faster, (just like everyone else).

He’s already got a strong pair of safeties in Hakeem Smith and Shenard Holton. In 2008 Victor Anderson was a 1000 yard rusher for Louisville. He’s been hobbled by injuries since but could return to form. Strong recruited one of the country’s top quarterback-receiver combinations in Teddy Bridgewater and Eli Rogers. So Louisville won’t be bad this year. In fact, they won’t be bad as long as they can hold on to Charlie Strong, who will get plenty of offers from other schools. One of the advantages of having Doug Marrone, an alumni who said being the coach at Syracuse is his “dream job” is that he’s likely to be here for a long time while other coaching positions in the Big East tend to be stepping stones for their occupants

Their stats from last year:
Offense- rushing 175.0 (34th) passing 194.0 (79th), total 369.0 (71st) scoring 26.4 (63rd)
Defense- rushing 144.3 (52nd) passing 167.4 (9th) total 311.7 (14th) scoring 19.4 (18th)
Turnover margin: +3 (44th)
 

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