Rutgers Scarlet Knights — 2012 Syracuse Football preview

As we countdown to kickoff in September, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each Wednesday over the summer. SU will continue its Big East schedule against Rutgers at the Carrier Dome on Saturday, Oct. 13.

Rutgers is a dark horse candidate for a Big East title.

BIG EAST CONTENDERS?: On paper, Rutgers has talent to compete for a Big East championship. It has one of the best receiving cores in the Big East, returns most of the conference’s top rated defense from last year and has a pair of talented rushers to boot. But the big question mark for Rutgers this season will be how it adjusts to the loss of Greg Schiano, who is now in the NFL. Replacement Kyle Flood kept most of Schiano’s recruits but he’s also a first time head coach with eight new assistants. The good news for Flood is that Rutgers has a relatively easy non-conference schedule, with the only expected hitch at Arkansas on Sept. 22. The Scarlet Knights may very well be playing for the conference title when it hosts Louisville on Nov. 29.

» More SU Football: Syracuse v. Pitt preview

WHO TO WATCH FOR: Last year, the Scarlet Knights went with a rotation at quarterback between Chas Dodd and Gary Nova. Flood said he wanted to avoid that this season, but neither quarterback distinguished themselves in spring practice. Whoever gets the starting nod will have plenty of options to target. Though Mohamed Sanu is gone, Brandon Coleman is a legitimate deep threat, as he hauled in 17 receptions for 552 yards and six touchdowns in 2011. For those doing the math, that’s an average of an eye-popping 32.5 yards a catch. Rutgers also welcomes back WRs Quron Pratt, Tim Wright and Jeremy Deering. In the backfield, Jawan Jamison and Savon Huggins will both see carries, but a lot of the offense’s success will hinge on how the offensive line (returning only two starters) will come together. On defense, eight starters from last year’s group return, including linebackers Khaseem Greene and Steve Beauharnais. The duo headline a defense that gave up just 18.3 points a game last season, tops in the Big East and eighth overall in the country.

» Related: Meet Syracuse running back Jerome Smith

PREDICTION: The Scarlet Knights’ issues on the offensive line may be overblown with Maryland transfer R.J. Dill arriving. Dill is a 6-foot-7, 310 pound bruiser who has 30 starts under his belt, which is more than the Scarlet Knight’s other four starters combined. If Flood can coax some reliable quarterbacking out of his two candidates, there is no reason why Rutgers can’t be at the top of the Big East. Rutgers 21, Syracuse 17.

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Wes Cheng

About Wes Cheng

Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.
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