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Rutgers v. Virginia Tech preview

The game's outcome largely depends on how Rutgers prepares for the Hokies.

Ned Dishman

Rutgers has not been an especially complicated team to figure out this season. It's been simple - just look at the opponent. Regardless of actual strength, if the opponent has been a relatively big name that Rutgers expects to struggle with, then the Knights come out firing on all cylinders with an aggressive gameplan. If they sniff out a patsy, then it's two straight runs up the gut and completion for a short gain on third down, followed by a punt, all in hopes of forcing a turnover. This has been positively maddening all season long.

The question then is whether or not Rutgers takes Virginia Tech seriously. Do they expect to face the 6-6 team that disappointed relative to expectations this year and lost to two Big East teams already, or psych themselves up for a team that has otherwise been a perennial power over the past decade? I'd lean towards the latter, as Rutgers has played name teams tough this year who had not shown evidence of deserving respect, and on the other hand stumbled against plucky underdogs. There's no sense in leaving anything left on the field in the last game of the year, and Rutgers has traditionally played well in bowl games after stumbling down the stretch, albeit under their former coach.

The conventional wisdom of course is that this is an evenly matched game, featuring two struggling offenses, strong defenses, and turnover-happy special teams. That's a little simplistic, as Tech hasn't really been forcing as many turnovers this year, and the raw statistics mask what has really been going on, as strange as it may seem to claim that Rutgers's struggles on offense have (somewhat) been deliberate and by choice. Plus, Rutgers just saw this season as a mild disappointment. For Virginia Tech, it's a travesty worthy of a house cleaning. What do they have to play for? They just want to get this over with so they can fire their ineffective coaches on offense. 2012 is nothing more than a blip towards making another big run a year from now. That being said, they do have a talented defense, and Rutgers can't be expected to go for the jugular this season until they actually prove it on the field. If this is a defensive struggle, Rutgers will come out narrowly on top.

Prediction: Rutgers 23, Virginia Tech 21.