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Rutgers-Cincinnati preview

The Knights return to what has been a house of horrors in Nippert

Andy Lyons

The silly season is over. These next three games on the schedule are for keeps, and believe it or not, that is a good reason to feel confident. This year's Rutgers team is as strong as any you can remember on paper, but in games, they have had serious issues with taking their foot off the accelerator. If the opponent is perceived to be weak, Rutgers has tried to play as conservative as possible, with the hope if not expectation that they can force the opponent into making critical errors. With one notable exception, this is how the season has largely played out.

Only when on the road - at USF and at Arkansas obviously, but also in the second half against Temple, have we seen Rutgers play with real urgency on offense, like the play book is being emptied and everything is being left on the field. Otherwise, some of the offensive play calling you've seen is beyond inexplicable. Fortunately, not only is this a road game, but Cincinnati is at worst the third best team in the Big East this year, so the thinking here is that they'll show the Bearcats respect and be up for the challenge. Cincy has had our number outside of 2005 and last year. Not only did they help cost us a conference win in 2006, but the same thing happened two years later as well when Rutgers arguably had a better team. That damned wizard Kelly had our number and stole our mojo, and now that he's gone we have to keep it.

Rutgers handled Munchie Legaux easily last year, and he was really playing poorly before being benched against Temple last week for Brendon Kay. The 3000 yard passing machine is gone (Kelly apparently didn't take it with him to South Bend either), but their running game surprisingly hasn't missed a beat with George Winn replacing Isaiah Pead. You really thought he would have been a big loss too. That's a worrying matchup, and they have some good returners too, meaning Rutgers really can't screw around this time. Defensively, it looks like the same passable unit it's been every year outside of 2010, although Walter Stewart is out for the year. Stopping Winn gives me pause. Getting another crack at Munchie would have been nice given how the Rutgers defense really swarms to the ball.

The coaching staff needed to show more confidence In Gary Nova today even if Jawan Jamison wasn't a question mark to play. Rutgers has been at its best this season when Nova was showing full command of the offense. He's the second best QB in the league (Nassib sure isn't, but maybe you could make a case for Sunseri given his TERRIBLE OL), and has looked good when managed correctly. They need to ride him from the start instead of out of desperation. Obviously a healthy Jamison and/or Andre Civil helps, but Savon Huggins did look pretty good last week too. If he's the blue chipper everyone thought, here's his chance to prove it.

I say it happens. Rutgers has mostly played up or down to the opponent this season, and these guys are for real. We'll show up.

Prediction: Rutgers 27, Cincinnati 23