Just one more game until the 2013 regular season comes to and end, and it couldn't come any sooner for Rutgers fans. This year went south in a hurry, beginning with a turnover-fest at Louisville that the Scarlet Knights never fully recovered from (save for a last-minute win against a bad Temple team). The USF Bulls are all that's standing in the way between RU and a bowl game, most likely in Birmingham. Willie Taggart's squad might not have a good record, but neither did UConn, and they thoroughly beat the Knights. Can we expect the same against the Bulls?
A quick look at the statistical rankings for USF tells you that the problem is offense. Defensively, the Bulls are actually pretty good - 32nd against the pass, 29th against the run, and 21st in total defense (although 75th in scoring defense). Offensively? It's bleak - 108th passing, 115th rushing, and 123rd in points per game. This isn't surprising considering Willie Taggart is starting a freshman at quarterback. Mike White, a lanky 6'4", 186 pounder from Ft. Lauderdale, has thrown three touchdowns against eight interceptions, so it's safe to say we're not dealing with the next candidate for the Heisman Trophy just yet. The Bulls do have a stud at wideout in junior Andre Davis. He leads the team with 48 receptions for over 700 yards, so if USF has watched any game tape they'll have him run crossing patterns over the middle. Again, this is an offense that is easily stoppable, but against the RU defense, they have the chance to put up season high numbers.
For Rutgers, Chas Dodd gets the start again, which is nice considering it's his last game in Piscataway. He should have center Betim Bujari back, but Paul James is questionable and Leonte Carroo is doubtful. An added bonus by starting Chas is that he makes quicker decisions throwing the ball. Rutgers surrendered zero sacks against UConn, and while the sack total is down for USF, they still have a lot of talent along the defensive line, with Ryne Giddins and Aaron Lynch anchoring the unit. Rutgers offensive line has also regressed lately, so Dodd's quick throws will limit the pass rush. The USF defensive line has excelled in getting tackles for loss, which is bad news for a Rutgers running game looking to get back on track.
One thing to keep an eye on is the coaching staff. Frustration is at maximum power right now, and with the current staff coaching with their jobs on the line, it could cause some tightness with the players. The program is just not in a good state right now, and that is putting it lightly. You know it's bad when the head coach starts to get questions regarding his job status, and the fans in attendance on Saturday will have no problem letting the boo-birds come out to serenade the Kyle Flood & Co.
This will most likely be an ugly game on both sides, at least offensively. Even though Mike White is an inexperienced freshman, Rutgers has struggled to defend any quarterback, regardless of years of experience. We're lucky that most of the conference championship games will be shown on broadcast television, otherwise ESPN would have probably stuck this game down in the depths of ESPN3. Can the Rutgers defense step up to give the offense a chance for a bowl? I think they do, sending the Scarlet Knights to Birmingham. Rutgers gets to .500 winning 21-20 over USF.
What do you think? Do you predict Rutgers goes bowling this holiday season? Leave your predictions and comments below!