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UConn is not a good football team. Digging up Paul Pasqualoni and George DeLeone (who had a lot of success at Syracuse in the 90s) has proven just as disastrous as expected. There are brief moments of competency, mainly owing to leftovers from the Randy Edsall era (Lyle McCombs, some defenders), but the slow descent of this once-respectable program continues by the week. This is a coaching staff that was over the hill a decade ago. They have absolutely no business, none, holding court at a BCS conference program in 2012. The very fact that UConn was willing to punt on their coaching search last year instead of taking a chance on, I don't know, Steve Addazio. Heck, even UConn's defensive coordinator, Don Brown (who had a good track record at UMass, and was Ralph Friedgen's defensive coordinator the past few years for Maryland), has a much better case to be their head coach than Pasqualoni.
Between their roster and over-the-hill leadership, that's what made last year's loss to confounding. Rutgers, by any objective measure, was a far better football team last year. They won more games, performed better in every conceivable statistic, and played better against common opponents. Yet when it came to actually visiting The Rent, Rutgers clearly did not take the game at all seriously. That was a big mistake considering that UConn has always historically played Rutgers very strongly, and we've seen that exact same game before (2003, 2007, etc...). For them, this has always been a defining rivalry. RU was caught looking past them, and paid dearly for it with a humiliating loss to a horrible team and losing a chance to claim a partial Big East championship (matching UConn's ludicrous, laughable 2007 claim.)
While Johnny McEntee ranks among the worst QBs ever to play DI football, this year's Husky squad may well be worse. For one thing, they've had a year to let the rot of Pasqualoni set in. They're a year further removed from Edsall's freaky talent scouting and/or development, which cost them a lot on the defensive side of the ball. Their offensive line already nose dived in 2011, and now has gotten even worse with the inexplicable demotion of coaching stalwart Mike Foley in favor of DeLeone, who's also calling the plays. It's cronyism personified. Even with objectively better skill position talent, it's still quite bad, and this unit is probably worse due to the OL regression. This is in no way a good unit; do not be fooled by inflated numbers against two consecutive MAC opponents. Chandler Whitmer's was able to connect well with receiver Geremy Davis well in a loss to Western Michigan, but that was about it. RB Lyle McCombs is your classic Edsall find, but is more of an outside runner, and is getting hammered by bad playcalling, poor OL play, and defenses crowding the line.
In 2010, Rutgers saw exactly how a poor offense could influence a solid defense, starting out gangbusters, and playing a little worse each weak until the bottom fell out. They get tired and beaten down due to offenses not sustaining drives, and then mentally check out once all the bad field position eventually starts translating into scores. Throw in some injuries, and that's exactly what has happened to UConn's defense. They were probably a little overrated owing to the NC State game, but the Huskies had a lot of experience at LB and CB. The defensive line has struggled after a strong 2011, and that is quite troubling given that the Rutgers OL has been playing at a very high level. Not having Michael Burton at fullback is a considerable loss for RU, but Savon Huggins returns, and the Knights won't hesitate to split forty carries between him and Jamison in an explicit attempt to grind the Huskies into dust. Of course, if Gary Nova and his receivers stay as hot as they have been the past two weeks, that ultimately will not matter.
If Rutgers shows up, and they will, they win this by double digits. Put the UConn obsession with Rutgers aside, this isn't Edsall's UConn any more, and this game is in Piscataway with a packed crowd hungry to celebrate the victories over Arkansas and USF. Whatever the team may be saying publicly in trying to take the high road in response to UConn goading, last year's win stung. They're not going to harp it on like H.B. Blades or anything like that, but revenge is warranted and on tap. It's already basketball season in Storrs, and there's no way to give that statement an exclamation point than by finally dispensing with the niceties and really hammering them today instead of sneaking past them in another ugly squeaker filled with turnovers, Nick Williams breaking huge returns, etc...
Prediction: Rutgers 27, UConn 13