Orange Watch: Syracuse football should meet Rutgers each season

Rutgers Ray Rice
Rutgers and Pittsburgh play in a Big East Conference matchup.

Item: With the recent announcement of an alliance between the ACC, Big Ten, and Pac 12 moving forward, which includes a scheduling component for football, now would be a good time for ACC member Syracuse and the Big Ten’s Rutgers to form an annual union by playing each season.

Memo to Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack and his counterpart at Rutgers Pat Hobbs: Meet as soon as possible to discuss how the two football programs could start playing each year, alternating between the Dome and SHI Stadium in Piscataway, N.J.

As the Dome gets ready to host football spectators for the first time since 2019, Saturday’s SU-RU matchup between the two 1-0 teams (2:00 p.m. ET / ACC Network) was originally the back-end of a home-and-home series, but last year’s meeting in New Jersey was wiped out due to the scheduling dilemmas posed by the COVID-19 outbreak limiting each ACC team to one non-league game, and for a short time, darkening the entire Big Ten schedule.

Syracuse-Rutgers is a natural for two universities 236 miles apart (four-hour drive) battling for many of the same recruits in the mid-Atlantic and I-95 corridor. Despite the schools being in two different states, it’s a rivalry that’s not much different than current ACC end-of-season games between southern comrades Clemson-South Carolina, Florida State-Florida, Georgia Tech-Georgia, and Louisville-Kentucky.

Although the teams have not met in nearly a decade, there’s also plenty of history in the matchup consisting of 42 games dating back to 1917. Consider these four games we witnessed in person over the past 46 years:

  • 1975-In Frank Maloney’s second season, and coming off an upset win over Peach Bowl-bound West Virginia, the Orangemen had a chance to finish 7-4 with a victory over the Scarlet Knights in the season finale at old Rutgers Stadium. Rutgers entered the game 8-2 with the defeats coming against Princeton and Lehigh. Trailing 14-10 with 2:00 to play and the football, SU QB Bob Mitch threw an ill-advised desperation pass that was intercepted by RU’s Henry Jenkins who weaved 59-yards down the sidelines for the clinching score in the 21-10 final margin.
  • 1984-Year number four of the Dick MacPherson program re-build started off with impressive road victories against Maryland and Northwestern, when Rutgers came to the Dome for the evening home opener. RU was 1-1 with a near upset at Penn State and one-point win over Temple under new coach Dick Anderson. In front of nearly 42,000, nothing went right for the Orangemen’s offense turning the ball over seven times in a stinging 19-0 defeat. Inexplicably, seven days later, Syracuse shocked No. 1 Nebraska 17-9 in the Dome.
  • 1998-At the height of the Paul Pasqualoni era which would end with an Orange Bowl appearance, the Orange won the 12th straight game in the series by the astonishing score of 70-14, in front of a subdued Dome crowd of nearly 43,000. It was the most points Rutgers yielded since losing to Yale 70-0 in 1890. The SU fans highlight play of the day was in the second quarter. Donovan McNabb sold a fake handoff to RB Kyle McIntosh, then flipped the ball to sweeping WR Kevin Johnson on a reverse for a 50-yard touchdown and 42-7 halftime lead.
  • 2010-In Doug Marrone’s second season, Syracuse assured itself of its first bowl game invitation in six years by garnering its seventh win of the season; a hard fought 13-10 victory at a recently-renovated Rutgers Stadium. With the game tied 10-10 in the fourth quarter, Rutgers kicker San San Te missed a 45-yard FG. On the ensuing SU drive, led by the rushing of Antwon Bailey and Delone Carter and the passing of Ryan Nassib, Ross Krautman booted a 26-yard FG with 1:07 left to seal the win. The SU players celebrated an impending bowl bid (Pinstripe) on the field.

» Related: Behind Sean Tucker’s 181 rushing yards, Syracuse routs Ohio

Now back to the current business at hand for Wildhack and Hobbs. Syracuse’s AD is a member of the ACC committee overseeing the scheduling aspect of the tri-conference affiliation, and with future contract commitments the potential earliest the two schools could meet again is 2024 at Rutgers and 2027 at Syracuse, with possible annual home/away games thereafter.

It’s a steady non-conference series that should happen.

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About Brad Bierman 762 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.