ESPN has tried for years to market this game as a rivalry, but it never truly caught on with either fanbase. Regardless, the annual Tri-state Showdown has been a game filled with surprise outcomes and heartbreaking losses. Scarlet Knight fans will never forget wide receiver Tim Brown sprint into the end zone after catching a bullet from quarterback Tom Savage in the final seconds of the 2009 matchup. The 2010 edition was a nailbiter that introduced the world to the legend of Dodd. The 2011 game dashed Rutgers' hopes for its first share of a conference title. This year, the stakes are nonexistent, except for last dibs on bragging rights. A loss here forces RU into a must-win situation against USF to get to a bowl. More importantly, a loss to UConn could cost Kyle Flood his job right on the spot.
The 2013 Connecticut Huskies are a bad football team. They are ranked near the bottom in every offensive statistical category, except for passing offense, which is a relatively high 87th. Defense, which is usually a staple of the Husky program, isn't much better, as UConn is currently 98th against the pass. There are still some stars on the team from years past, such as LB Yawin Smallwood and RB Lyle McCombs, but there is no doubt that this has been a dreadful season for the Huskies. Paul Pasqualoni, a mistake of a hire in the first place, was fired midseason. The quarterback position has never been more dysfunctional. They managed to get their first win over a 1-9 Temple team last week, avoiding a winless season. If you're not getting the gist of all of this, it will be a travesty if Rutgers cannot beat this team. Connecticut runs a vanilla pro-style offense, which is the only type of offense that Kyle Flood knows how to scheme against. Defensively, it is entirely possible to run or pass against UConn, which should allow Paul James to get the ground game going again, giving Chas Dodd a nice safety net as he returns to the starting lineup.
Ideally, this should also be a nice tune-up game for the defense. It's been a revolving door at quarterback for UConn all season, and the so-called future of the program, freshman Tim Boyle, is either not ready or a complete disaster. Even in the win against Temple, UConn's leading passer was Casey Cochran, who finished with a less-than-impressive 8 of 18 passing for 111 yards, with a touchdown and interception. With UConn Saturday and USF to end the season, it's entirely possible for the secondary to finish with a strong three-game win streak, which could do a lot to stem the bleeding from the step up in competition in the B1G.
Of course, the Huskies are all thinking the same thing. Here comes Rutgers, a team that is struggling to get anything going offensively or defensively, and is rapidly declining rather than improving since the beginning of the season. In essense, this game is just weakness versus weakness. So who wins? Rutgers has at least shown glimpses of competence at certain points this season, mustering five wins (kind of amazing when you think about it).
Talent and special teams usually serve as tie-breakers for evenly matched teams, and Rutgers has the edge in both categories. It's amazing that the offense and defense have regressed so much since the season started, but that's where the Scarlet Knights are at this point, living from game to game on a patchwork of a program. RU is still the better team, and although it won't be pretty, the Scarlet Knights pull this one out, 20-7.
What do you think? Leave your predictions and comments below!