The quest for the BCS starts now. After four games against varied competition, Rutgers has its best chance for a major bowl for the foreseeable future. While the American is not a strong conference by any means, several teams at the top have the talent and experience to win the bid, making the room for error close to nil. And now, the Knights will have to go without one of their top weapons in Paul James. Can they get it done in Texas? Read on for the full preview:
Get ready for another test for the secondary. June Jones is not known for his use of the running game, and he brought on Air Raid disciple Hal Mumme as offensive playcaller. Garrett Gilbert, the former five-star blue chipper who threw about 1000 interceptions in the 2010 BCS Championship Game, leads the Mustang offense. He has a stable of wideouts to work with, as senior WR Jeremy Johnson could end up being an all-AAC first team selection. Darius Joseph completes the tandem that produces the majority of the offense for SMU.
The key for Gilbert will be to cut down on turnovers. He's actually done well this season, as he threw his first interception against Texas A&M two weeks ago. However, against the Horned Frogs he ended up throwing four passes to the other team. Gilbert was never known for his accuracy, so look for the Knights to take advantage. He also doesn't get much help from his offensive line, as TCU collected seven sacks without Big 12 player of the year Devonte Fields in the lineup. That should mean Marcus Thompson should have a feast this Saturday.
All of this will be moot if Rutgers can't focus on the game at hand instead of the primetime matchup next Thursday. Coupled with the emotional high after the comeback win against Arkansas, this has all of the makings of a trap game. Kyle Flood shouldn't have to tell his players to focus with so much going on, but this is a classic giveaway matchup for Rutgers.
Paul James is sidelined, and Savon Huggins can't get out of his own head. SMU is not great against the run, giving up 155 yards per game. If Huggins needed a wake-up call, this is it. He can be as diplomatic as he wants when he gives interviews to the press, but there is no doubt he is hurting mentally. He knows how good he is, he just has to quit thinking and pound the rock. The running game is an integral part of Ron Prince's gameplan, and it will only help Gary Nova to have a safety net. Not only that, but a consistent running game will keep the Mustangs off the field. SMU doesn't run much, so look for the Scarlet Knights to own the time of possession, which is exactly what Flood wants.
SMU makes it easy on Rutgers since they are already one-dimensional. Prescott Line is not a real threat, so the back seven can eliminate the guessing game of what the gameplan will be. It will still be on the linebacker corps to slow down the short passes, as that is what June Jones does to simulate a running game. We've all seen before that short passes can really frustrate the Rutgers defense, but a bye week should provide the preparation needed. Rutgers wins, 31-17.
What do you think is in store for Rutgers as they enter American conference play? Leave your thoughts and predictions below!