Make no mistake about it, this is a game that the Scarlet Knights should be heavily favored in on paper. UConn is 4-6, which includes a home loss to Western Michigan. Their quarterback, Johnny McEntee, is a walk-on who barely completes over 50% of his passes. He's bad, and that is exacerbated by a dreadful wide receiving corps. One final parting gift from former coach Randy Edsall in freshman back Lyle McCombs is even more of a focal point for the Husky offense than Jordan Todman or Donald Brown were. Rutgers did a nice job of bottling up Isaiah Pead last week, and Louisville laid down the blueprint for doing the same with McCombs on the very same day. UConn's only saving grace will be to throw freshman scrambler Scott McCummings into the fire. That was good enough against Syracuse, but won't be against a defense that held Munchie Legaux in check.
On defense, Rutgers just needs to limit its mistakes, and wait for the Huskies to beat themselves. Basically, UConn is a less talented version of Pitt. Their line can run block (but struggles in pass protection), and they have a decent defense. The secondary is suspect though, and the offense is so one-dimensional that it's liable to implode at any given moment. Don't turn the ball over, don't kick the ball directly to returner Nick Williams, and Rutgers should win by double digits. Yes, this series has been very competitive, with seemingly every game between the two teams heading down to the wire, but this isn't the UConn of the past decade. Randy Edsall is gone, and in his stead is Paul Pasqualoni. You know, the guy who looked hopelessly out of touch six years ago as Greg Schiano started eating his lunch. That dude.
Pasqualoni was a desperate hire by an athletic department in chaos (athletic director Jeff Hathaway was subsequently forced out.) They weren't exactly in a position to conjure up the next Vince Lombardi, but how do you not at least roll the dice on a candidate with at least a little upside, like Steve Addazio? Instead, they dig up the retread Coach P and offensive coordinator George DeLeone, citing their Connecticut ties as the determining factor. Because the only thing standing between UConn football and the promised land were those two or three Connecticut prospects that sign with out of state BCS conference teams every year. Weirdly enough, Pasqualoni and DeLeone have upgraded the program's recruiting significantly from infamous misanthrope Randy Edsall.
Unlike Edsall though, the pair does not have an uncanny, supernatural ability to develop talent. (Well, Randy's own recruits - not the softies that Ralph Friedgen left in the College Park cupboard.) Edsall didn't leave his secret sauce or any instruction manuals behind, and as a result, UConn is playing, well, exactly like how you would expect a team full of unheralded sleepers to perform. Throw in a coaching staff so desperate to save their jobs that they stuck with McEntee under center instead of playing the kids, and all the pieces are in place for a program that is rapidly heading in the wrong direction, with no conceivable promise visible on the horizon. All of Greg Schiano's coach speak aside, their offense is an unmitigated train wreck. As Rutgers learned the hard way last year, struggles on one side of the ball inevitably spill over to the other given enough opportunities.
Rutgers does not hold its destiny in its own hands, with plenty riding on the results of today's West Virginia and Louisville games. They do however hold a shot at winning a share of the Big East title, with their odds of an Orange Bowl bid getting moderately realistic with a victory. This, by all accounts, should be a lay up - you know, that move they do in the only sport UConn fans actually care about. Crazy things have happened in this rivalry, and Rutgers isn't exactly in great shape on offense either (if the game is close, it's because Chas Dodd starts getting possessed by the ghost of Zach Frazer), but this will almost certainly be a comfortable win. Rutgers will close the book on their regular season with this one, and eagerly await the results of how the rest of the league standings play out.
Prediction: Rutgers 27, UConn 17