Rutgers has its first chance at a real upset this year as they welcome the Michigan State Spartans to Rutgers Stadium on Saturday night for the annual blackout.
Michigan State is currently a 13 point favorite, but Michigan State has yet to cover a spread this year.
And of course, there is one thing that Rutgers fans will be looking forward to:
We're all glad he is back and has moved on from a bad situation. It is unknown what his exact role will be on Saturday. My guess? BIG.
How Rutgers wins
How did Rutgers beat Michigan in last year's blackout game? An 80-yard passing touchdown to Andrew Turzilli and a huge blocked field goal. How did Rutgers beat Arkansas in the blackout game 2 years ago? Janarion Grant returning a punt for a touchdown late in the third quarter to completely change the momentum. There were also plenty of big plays against Indiana last year with the black unis on. Simply put, big plays are a blackout tradition. The tradition will need to continue if Rutgers wants to upset a top-5 team.
Protect Chris Laviano
The offensive line has been shaky all year, and Michigan State might be their biggest test. Rutgers already got pushed around by Penn State, so maybe they will be a little more prepared for B1G size on the line. Regardless, Chris Laviano can't afford to be running for his life or else this game will not end well.
Avoid Bad Mistakes
Michigan State has played pretty poorly in most of their games. However, that is irrelevant because they win. They win because they take care of the ball. They are an incredibly well-coached and disciplined team that has only turned the ball over twice this whole season. Connor Cook may be the most reliable QB in the conference and this team does not throw games away by being stupid.
How Rutgers loses
1st down: 0-yard rush. 2nd down: incomplete pass. 3rd down: 5 yard pass. Punt. Repeat this 10 times and that could very well be the Rutgers team that shows up to play. This could be the Penn State team that shows up or this could be the Norfolk State team that shows up. Rutgers cannot afford to come out and play the type of football that everyone in country expects them to.
Ineffective Running Game
Let's be honest, Chris Laviano cannot put the team on his back and rally them. Rutgers will have to lean on their running game to give Laviano good passing situations. If Rutgers cannot run the ball against Michigan State, this will be a very ugly game.
As I mentioned earlier, Connor Cook is one of the most reliable QBs in the conference. He will not give anyone in the secondary anything easy. They will have to work for every pass they deflect and every play they defend. Hopefully the bye week has them better prepared and they have a strong showing. However, they still have a lot to prove.
Prove your worth. Prove you haven't lost a step. Prove you are the best wide receiver in the B1G.
The whole offensive line will have their hands full, but Lumpkin will most likely be tasked with stopping NJ native Shilique Calhoun. Chris Laviano will have to trust Lumpkin to protect his blind side, as he will have enough on his plate trying to lead his offense against an elite defense.
Rutgers will need big plays, and they should look no further than the man with the grills. Grant is notorious for providing the team with a spark when they are down. There is a good chance he will need to step up and provide some electricity for the blackout crowd.
MIchigan State @ Rutgers | Rutgers Stadium, Piscataway, NJ | 8pm | BTN