Rutgers is ranked for the first time in more than two years and coming off a dominating performance against South Florida on national television.
Syracuse (3-7, 0-5) lost in the closing minutes to Louisville, is winless in the Big East and will not be bowl eligible for a fifth straight season.
Perhaps, but senior linebacker Damaso Munoz isn’t concerned about a letdown heading into Saturday’s game with the Orange at the Carrier Dome.
“I don’t think that’s our personality,’’ Munoz said. “We come in and practice hard all week and execute during the game. I think every team is different. The leaders of this team, the seniors, want to keep everybody focused and not underestimate Syracuse.’’
Recently, Rutgers has done a good job of playing well after big wins.
Not since following the 2004 season-opening win against Michigan State with a loss to Division I-AA New Hampshire have the Scarlet Knights had a big letdown after an emotionally charged win.
But Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano recognizes it can happen.
“Is there a danger for it? Sure, there’s a danger for it,’’ he said. “What our program is built on, though is We have goals and things that we, each game, that really have everything to do with our performance.
“I hope that is what our guys aspire to because I know, I’ve been doing it long enough, it’s a tough place to play. It’s a very, very tough football team. I think our guys understand that.’’
When most people think of Syracuse’s quarterback, Greg Paulus, they remember him as a former Duke basketball player who finished his eligibility in basketball but had a year left for football, so he went on to Syracuse.
However, the Orange also use red-shirt freshman Ryan Nassib, who is not considered as athletic at Paulus, at quarterback, particularly when Paulus struggles.
“My personal observation of them is one’s a little more mobile than the other,’’ Kitchen said. “They both throw the ball good. They both spread the field out, and each of their receivers are talented in their own way.’’
Paulus, the starter, is 156 of 237 (65.8 percent) for 1,586 yards, but he has thrown 10 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Nassib is 25 53 for 289 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Rutgers offensive tackle Desmond Stapleton (ankle), who missed the last two games, is making progress and is expected to return, but guard Desmond Wynn’s health remains in question, Schiano said.
“I think Stapleton is going to go,’’ Schiano said. “I don’t know if (Wynn) is going to be able to (play) or not. He’s dressing. If we need to play him, we will.’’