Things have changed quickly in a year's time. Back when Rutgers and Army last met in 2010, the Scarlet Knights were on the cusp of a losing streak that would leave them sitting at home in December for the first time in years. Army, on the other hand, was en route to its best season in 15 years. In a game that still brings back difficult memories for reasons that have nothing to do with the final score, Rutgers went down big early, unable to check the Black Knights' triple option attack. Chas Dodd rallied Rutgers down from 17-3 (there were some similarities to this year's Navy game) in the early fourth quarter, with Joe Martinek securing the victory with an overtime touchdown. Even with Rutgers en route to a lost season, they once again managed to defeat Army, with last year's game taking place at the Meadowlands.
One year later, the two squads find themselves settling familiar roles. Rutgers is 6-3 with three games left on the schedule, with Army's record an upside down 3-6. Things aren't all bad in West Point. The Black Knights have played several competitive games (they beat Northwestern, barely lost to San Diego State, and held Air Force at bay for a half.) One problem is that they've suffered a few critical injuries. Quarterback Trent Steelman hasn't played in a while, and is questionable to play on Saturday. Back Ray Maples is likely to miss the game as well. Those are losses, but Malcolm Brown is extremely productive, and big fullback Jared Hassin gashed the undersized Rutgers front last year up the middle. Besides, defending the triple option is more about schematics than anything else.
As the Navy game showed this season, option teams aren't exactly known for their stellar line play (hence, the plethora of uncalled cut blocking.) Rutgers looked feeble in this game a year ago, but has the personnel on hand to go up big early in this one. Chas Dodd just needs to keep it simple against a defense lacking bulk or team speed, and running backs Jawan Jamison, Jeremy Deering, and Joe Martinek just have to tote the rock and fall forward. Gashing the Black Knights on the ground will open things up on the air, which will free Chas Dodd (or if you're into conspiracies, Gary Nova) to air the ball out from sideline to sideline .As for the defense, they just need to put in the extra safety package with Pat Kivlehan, and dust off the Navy gameplan (which held the Midshipmen far below their season averages.)
This contest, featuring the two FBS teams that play in the New York City metropolitan area, will be held in the new Yankee Stadium in The Bronx. Fans will be able to take the subway right to the game, which may help ease the pain of the overpriced seats and poor sight lines. In fact, for Rutgers fans, this home away from home in the big apple may well be a precursor to a return trip in a few months to play in the Pinstripe Bowl. Army didn't bring many fans to Giants Stadium last season, so it's quite possible that, fickle as they may be, most of the t-shirts in the crowd on Saturday will be scarlet red. For Rutgers, this is an opportunity to showcase the program away from the friendly confines of suburban New Jersey. More importantly, it's an opportunity to build some momentum with winnable games against Cincinnati and UConn still on tap to close out the schedule through the month of November.
Prediction: Rutgers 34, Army 22