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Game 5 preview: Rutgers finishes the non-con with Tulane

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Tulane is an overmatched opponent, and Rutgers *should* win easily in this one.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

This could be a chance for some small feeling of redemption.

Most of us remember what happened the last time Tulane visited Piscataway, and if you don't, you've most likely been reminded of that 2010 game several times over this week (not that OtB hasn't helped in that regard). For 2014, the Green Wave arrive with about the same level of competition - not very strong, to say politely.

Oh sure, Tulane was only down by three to Georgia Tech at half in week two, and they put up a valiant effort against Duke before getting blown out in Durham. But head coach Curtis Johnson has youth at several key positions on the team, including quarterback. One of the symptoms of a young team is turnovers, and Tulane has quite a few through four games (13 to be exact, including nine interceptions by QB Tanner Lee). Rutgers is only in the middle-tier of the B1G in terms of interceptions, netting three through four games. The Scarlet Knights should get the better of Tulane, however, if they can get to the quarterback. The Green Wave is ranked near the bottom in sacks allowed, having given up nine sacks through four games. Rutgers, meanwhile, has sacked opposing QBs 17 times already, good for third nationally. I think it's fair to say Joe Rossi has - so far - brought the pass rush back to Piscataway.

Of course, we've all seen the issues when RU doesn't get to the quarterback. With one-third of the season already in the books, it's fair to extrapolate the state of the secondary, and it is...not good. Rutgers might have gaudy sack numbers, but the big passing plays given up are just atrocious (including some given up to Navy's "vaunted" aerial attack). The Scarlet Knights rank near the bottom in 20+ yard passing plays by opposing teams, meaning the defensive backfield is a serious weak point considering the success of the defensive line. It might be a consolation prize if RU was bend, don't break, but the red zone defense numbers don't really support that notion.

Offensively, the huge story is replacing Paul James. That's not really possible for a player like him, but with Justin Goodwin and Desmon Peoples, the hope is that there isn't a gigantic dropoff. No doubt James benefitted from the offensive line, and if their stellar play continues, the rushing game should be just fine.

I wouldn't be worried about these things against Tulane, per se. But one can't help but think ahead to how the rest of the season progresses if the secondary (and to a much lesser extent, the running game) issue is addressed. That's why Saturday could be important. Stopping Tulane through the air might not be a huge accomplishment, but it would be a step forward for a struggling unit, and that could be just what the doctor ordered before the B1G meat-grinder gets set in motion.