Rutgers visits Syracuse on Saturday in a crucial non-conference matchup for both programs. After 1-0 starts and strong week one performances, the former Big East foes could be in for a tight battle. Our contributors got together to make their picks for Saturday’s game.
Dave White: Look for an inspired Noah Vedral to try and lead the team to a solid victory. I expect we’ll see one of Vedral’s best games in Scarlet, as he knows a lot of the fans are looking toward a Gavin Wimsatt appearance against Delaware. The questions for me are, of course, in the lines. Syracuse runs the ball a ton and Rutgers was unable to establish its own run in the process. I think the Orange are better coached than Temple, and their QB is a New Jersey transplant. Rutgers should win this one, but it might be tight for a little while. Rutgers 35 Syracuse 21.
Fred Gaudios: I feel some analysis paralysis with respect to making this pick. In addition to watching the Rutgers game last week (duh), I watched most of the Syracuse game (they won’t be sending tape of Syracuse vs. Ohio to the Chik-Fil-A National College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, GA, and yes, the National College Football Hall of Fame is absolutely branded that way), I read OTB’s awesome content throughout the week, visited a soothsayer, went to AC and made a roulette bet (on scarlet, naturally), and spent some time in quiet contemplation about RU showing up on some trusted writers’ bowl projections this week. ANYWAY — I think Rutgers wins this game, probably in a way that looks comfortable to those who don’t watch, but I’m more confident this is going to be the kind of offensively challenged, low-scoring slug fest you expect to see when two teams defined by strong defense and special teams get together in Week 2. I’d hammer the under if I could, and will here. Rutgers 23, Syracuse 9.
Chris Banker: Make no mistake about it, Syracuse presents a far greater challenge than Temple did in the opener, and that’s before considering their unique home-field advantage that comes with playing in the Carrier Dome. This isn’t Greg Schiano’s first trip to The Salt City, however, and he’ll have his troops prepared for the environment. I think this game will come down to the defense’s ability to create turnovers and limit the Orange’s ground game. If Dino Babers’ crew can get rolling and gash the Rutgers defense for big gains with Sean Tucker (he had 183 yards in Week 1 against Ohio), they’ll have the ability to control the clock and game flow. I expect the Scarlet Knights offense to clean up its mistakes, but the outcome will truly come down to holding Syracuse in check when they have the ball. This is a crucial game for the program in its short-term quest for a bowl bid, and perhaps even more importantly, the continuing effort to change the narrative surrounding Rutgers football. I think the visitors escape ‘Cuse with a win, but it’s about as tight as can be. Rutgers 20, Syracuse 17
David Anderson: I don’t want to overreact to Week 1 and still (see preseason roundtable) feel this game is a toss-up because the two teams are almost mirror images of one another. They both lean heavily on the running game, need turnovers, rely on special teams, may be susceptible on the defensive line, and need their QB to have one of his good days throwing the ball to beat a Power Five opponent. Looking at the Syracuse-Ohio drive chart from Week 1, both teams controlled the ball for long stretches; I don’t think Syracuse will be able to sustain drives like that against Rutgers all day though Tommy DeVito will be able to complete a few long passes. Syracuse is going to be all over the intermediate passing game which will slow down Rutgers to the point that Noah Vedral will need to be insanely accurate in the screen game. The home-field advantage will give the Orange a huge boost (still have nightmares from 2009 when RU was overconfident and unprepared), but I think Rutgers has just a little more depth and handled adversity better with their current personnel dating back to last year to win this one very close. Rutgers 24, Syracuse 23.
Art Stein: This is a tough game to predict because Rutgers at times looked susceptible on defense against Temple’s running QB and the Orange looked very pedestrian against an average Ohio squad. Then there is the Scarlet Knights history at the Dome which has been less than stellar. Tommy DeVito and Noah Vedral last week both did just enough to win but neither is a difference-maker. Both teams have strong running games but Rutgers has the better receivers. It is on defense where I see Rutgers having a clear advantage. If Rutgers stacks the box, then DeVito is going to have to be much better than he was at Ohio. Rutgers will be wearing special commemorative 9/11 uniforms paying honor to the 37 RU alumni who died on that tragic day 20 years ago. Emotions will be high which will somewhat offset the Syracuse fans. I believe the difference will be Aron Cruickshank and the Scarlet Knights winning the turnover battle. Rutgers 31, Syracuse 20.
B Vincent P – Syracuse game is the one I picked to be the most challenging of the non-conference games. With that said, I expect to see a much much better version of Noah Vedral (hard to see him being less effective and winning). Is anyone really sold on Noah as a Power 5 QB, based on his body of work? I am hoping I am wrong, but if the game starts to slide away I expect Schiano to consider sending a message with a brief QB change. Noah is the lynchpin to whether this team thrives or survives. Not because he needs to be a savior, but more about whether he can keep drives alive with downfield passing, to stretch the defense, something he struggles consistently to do. His decision making, which can be suspect at times, is amplified by missed reads and the inability to quickly identifying the open receivers. Without a doubt, there is a lot of talent around Noah. He has an experienced O-Line, yes experience, maybe not in the positions each player is currently occupying, but in actual game action. That being said, the running backs may end up being the strength of this team by year's end if the passing game can show enough life to prevent opposing defensives from packing the box and closing running lanes.
Hard to find a consistent flaw in defense last week, other than QB containment (this week will be a test with the quasi-triple option offense). Special teams will continue to be special this week. I am going with a convincing score, but the game will be close until 4th quarter. RU 38, Syracuse 21
Aaron Breitman: I think it will be a relatively close game and whichever team can force turnovers in the second half will be in a good position to win the game. Rutgers has to generate a few big plays on offense and limit the Syracuse run game or I could actually see them losing by double digits. That being said, I think Rutgers is much improved under Schiano and expect them to throw the kitchen sink at DeVito from a coverage and blitzing standpoint. Special Teams will be a factor and I think Rutgers has a clear edge in that area. After a slow first half with both teams feeling each other out, the game picks up in the third quarter and Rutgers makes a couple more plays than Syracuse to win the game. Rutgers 30 Syracuse 23
Cara Sanfilippo: I have to say, I do not know enough about Syracuse as a team and have not had the time this week to do a deep dive into the coverage. That being said, that means my prediction has more to do with my gut feeling and knowledge of the visiting team than of the Orange. After the Temple win, it was the general consensus in my home that while we were so excited, Noah Vedral would need to play better than he did to pull out a win in Syracuse. I believe, and apparently so do my colleagues, that this is the case and to me the X-Factor to a win and success in the B1G. I will give Vedral the benefit of the doubt in that he probably had the jitters after a long stretch of non-play. However, he was never in sync with his receivers even as the offense started to pick up. Bo Melton is just that good. I hope that getting the first game jitters out of his system will help him to throw with more confidence, although the Carrier Dome environment will not help with that. If Noah Vedral can show that he is a veteran QB, and all other factors from game one in terms of the other position groups’ play and the clean gameplay stay the same, I think Rutgers pulls out the win. This will also be a test to whether we can contain a dual-threat QB after this was a weakness last season. It will be close, but I have to agree that it goes in Rutgers’ favor. Rutgers 27, Syracuse 24
Lawrence Krayn: I said pre-season that this game would not be a “gimme”. I still do not think it will be. Syracuse beat and generally dominated a solid MAC team in Ohio week 1, while Rutgers handily took care of Temple. Do those results move the needle on this contest one way or the other? I don’t think so. Rutgers looked borderline inept on offense, specifically in the passing game. That won’t get it done against our ACC foe from western New York. Syracuse did nothing to show serious vulnerability nor a threat of dominance against Ohio. This game will have to stand on its own. This is the first true road game for this program under the second iteration of Schiano. It will be loud in the dome. Syracuse isn’t going to giftwrap turnovers the way Temple did.
Still, I think this game will come down to Defense, special teams, and who has an advantage in talent. I think Rutgers is superior in at least two those facets, and probably three. Further, I don’t think Syracuse has the type of offense capable of making up for the discrepancies in those areas, even if the Rutgers offense has another anemic day. Lets hope they don’t though. Rutgers 24, Syracuse 17
Greg Patuto: Week 1 could have been a challenge. It was not. It is likely that Week 2 will be now. Syracuse will have fans back in the building and the Carrier Dome should be as loud as ever. This is an Orange offense that runs the ball well and can make things difficult for the Scarlet Knights.
With that being said, Rutgers is favored and the better team on paper. Greg Schiano and Sean Gleeson will have to put together a plan for the offense and it should be clear — jump on top early and control the ball. Win the time of possession in this one. Noah Vedral should be a bit fired up with the arrival of Gavin Wimsatt and could look to really nail down his job under center. Isaih Pacheco will be an X-factor in this game. Rutgers will have to win the game in the trenches. If Rutgers can continue to force turnovers, they should be able to get to 2-0 on the year. Rutgers 27, Syracuse 20.
Justin Raffone: After a dominant opener it would be easy to put all the hype on Rutgers. The defense and special teams were impressive enough to make you believe they could make mostly any team look silly. But let’s not forget that Temple has had so much attrition and didn’t look ready for the new season. Syracuse had a nice win themselves and get to play at home in front of fans for the first time since 2019. They have a solid defense themselves and can run the ball efficiently. That should mean a lot of Olakunle Fatukasi and the linebacking core making plays across the field. I’m not worried about the Scarlet Knights defense having a letdown after week 1 and I think the offense shows more semblance of life. It’s going to be a tougher game than the Owls put up but I’m too impressed with Rutgers’ defense at the moment to stray away. Rutgers 34, Syracuse 24
Andrew Cangiano: The Scarlet Knights face a tough road test in their Week 2 matchup against their former Big East Rival. The Carrier Dome will be loud, as the Orange will be hosting their first game in front of a home crowd in nearly two years (and it is also the 20th anniversary of 9/11), so emotions will be high. The Orange are coming off an impressive performance in their opener against Ohio. Syracuse running back Sean Tucker had a huge game with 181 yards rushing. The Scarlet Knights defense will have to slow him down, along with veteran quarterback Tommy DeVito, a Don Bosco product.
Rutgers capitalized on special teams and off turnovers to blow the game open against Temple and they will need to do the same to take care of business against the Orange. I expect the Scarlet Knights to make enough plays to get the job done in a game which will be tighter than week 1, but end with the same result - a Rutgers win. Rutgers 27 Syracuse 20
Are we too optimistic about the Rutgers run defense and the potential outcome on Saturday? Let us know your thoughts and predictions in the comment section.