Head-to-Head: Army vs. Rutgers

Following a dominating victory over Air Force, the Army Black Knights (2-7) travel to New Jersey to play the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7-1). Last week Army ran for four touchdowns and recovered a fumble in the end zone as they beat the Falcons 41-21 at Michie Stadium for the first time since 1996. It was the Black Knights first victory over Air Force since 2005.

Following a dominating victory over Air Force, the Army Black Knights (2-7) travel to New Jersey to play the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7-1). Last week Army ran for four touchdowns and recovered a fumble in the end zone as they beat the Falcons 41-21 at Michie Stadium for the first time since 1996. It was the Black Knights first victory over Air Force since 2005. Rutgers enters the game coming off a bye week following a stunning 35-23 defeat to Kent State. The loss was the Scarlet Knights first defeat after opening the season with seven straight wins. Last year an injury depleted Army team gamely battled Rutgers deep into the fourth quarter. It took a late blocked punt returned for a touchdown by Rutgers, followed by a touchdown run for the Scarlet Knights to defeat the Black Knights 27-12 in a game played at Yankee Stadium.

Army's Rushing Offense
Rutger's Rushing Defense
Edge: Even

Army enters this game leading the nation in rushing, averaging over 375 rushing yards per game. Army rushed for 314 yards, four touchdowns and averaged 4.1 yards per carry against Air Force. More importantly the Black Knights committed no turnovers and punted only once all day. Senior quarterback Trent Steelman ran for over 100 yards for the third straight game. Last week Steelman (911 rushing yards, 5.1 avg., 12 TDs in 2012) moved into third place on the Black Knights' career rushing ledger with 2,983 yards. He passed the greatest player in Army football history, the legendary Heisman Trophy winner Glenn Davis. Davis who was known as "Mr. Outside" during his playing plays had rushed for 2,959 yards. Steelman also passed another Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow (Florida) and Dan LeFevour (Central Michigan) on the NCAA quarterback career rushing list this week. Trent missed the last year's game against Rutgers with a high ankle sprain and plebe Angel Santiago started in his place. Junior A-back Raymond Maples hasn't been as effective in recent weeks but did run for 73 yards and scored a touchdown against the Falcons. Maples (907 rushing yards, 5.4 avg., 2 TDs) remains on pace for his second consecutive thousand yard rushing season. He missed last year's Rutgers game with a concussion. Sophomore B-back Larry Dixon looked completely recovered from his hamstring injury which hampered him the last few weeks. Dixon ran hard for 89 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries versus AF. Often hurt senior Malcolm Brown (368 yards, 8.0 avg., 3 TDs) missed the Air Force game. Sophomore Trenton Turrentine played well in his place as he ran for 47 yards on eight carries.

The Scarlet Knight run defense is ranked 14th in the nation and 6th in the nation in total defense. All-American candidate Khaseem Greene has been a tremendous athletic linebacker since being moved from safety two years ago. Greene leads Rutgers with 74 tackles, has recorded 3 1/2 sacks and forced five fumbles. Greene was named Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2011 when he made 141 tackles. Senior linebacker Steve Beauharnais has made 43 tackles this season. Beauharnais, the team captain. was named to Preseason All-Big East First team. Senior defensive tackle Scott Vallone is a four year starter who anchor the defensive line. Vallonehas made 24 tackles and has 5 ½ tackles-for-loss. The Scarlet Knights have allowed only one opposing back to rush for more than 100 yards all season. They are allowing just over 88 yards per game. Last year they held Army to a season low 228 yards and an average of 4.2 yards per carry.

Army's Passing Offense
Rutgers Passing Defense
Edge: Rutgers
Army starting quarterback Trent Steelman completed 4 of 6 passes for 100 yards against Air Force. Steelman had a big pass play last week when he hit A-back Raymond Maples in the flat for a 53-yard reception. Maples (4 rec., 98 yards,1 TD in 2012) really punished defensive back Christi Spears at the end of his run. Army rarely throws the ball but Steelman has been more accurate in recent weeks. On the season Trent has completed 47.5 percent of his passes for 494 yards with one touchdown with two interceptions. Chevaughn Lawrence (14 rec., 244 yards, 17.4 avg.) has been Steelman's favorite target. The other wide receiver Patrick Laird (9 catches, 107 yards, 1 TD) has good hands but lack speed and starts because he is a terrific blocker in the running game. Angel Santiago was able to convert a few third down passes last year against the fast Rutgers secondary.

The Scarlet Knights are ranked 23rd in pass defense. Cornerback Logan Ryan has picked off three passes this year and has six career interceptions. Senior free safety Duron Harmon earned first team All-Big East honors last year. Harmon, a very fast safety, has 24 tackles and an interception in 2012. Up front the Scarlet Knights do not rush the passer quite as well as they did last season when they were ninth in the nation in sacks. They do cover very well and are able to generate pressure. Khaseem Greene provides most of the pass rush pressure from his linebacker spot with 3 1/2 sacks and six quarterback hurries. Defensive tackle Jamil Merrell (6-4, 255) who has made two sacks leads the defensive line charge.

Rutgers Rushing Offense
Army Rushing Defense
Edge: Rutgers
Rutgers is not a powerhouse on the ground but they have improved their running game this season. Sophomore running back Jawan Jamison leads the Big East in rushing with 863 yards, averages 4.5 yards a carry and has scored four rushing touchdowns. Jameson broke a 56-yard touchdown run with under two minutes left in the game last year against Army to secure the win. Unlike last year, Rutgers' offensive line has been stable. Their offensive line weighs an averages 296 pounds. Highly recruited running back Savon Huggins (132 yards, 3.1 avg., 1 TD) has had a disappointing sophomore season. The Scarlet Knights fullback position is used almost exclusively used as a lead blocker in the running game. Quarterback Gary Nova, unlike last years starter Chas Dodd, is a pure pocket passer who isn't very mobile.

Army's rushing defense is ranked 111th in the nation. They held the Falcons option attack 103 rushing yards which is well below their season average of 366 rushing yards per game. The Black Knights played a 5-2 look most of the game and allowed just 2.4 yards per carry. The Black Knights will not be able to sell out against the run like they did against Air Force since Rutgers can spread the field. The return of captain bandit linebacker Nate Combs from injury inspired his teammates. Combs played great as he made 8 tackles (2 TFL) had an interception, knocked down a pass and made a fumble recovery for a touchdown Mike linebacker Geoffrey Bacon led the team with 13 tackles last week and had a huge interception. Defensive tackles Bobby Kough (30 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 1 1/2 sacks and 3 QB hurries) and Richard Glover (20 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 2 quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery) both had their best games last week against the Falcons. Glover teamed up with Nate Combs to stop the Falcons on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Glover left the game with an injury and his status for Saturday is unknown at this time.

Rutgers Passing Offense
Army's Passing Defense
Edge: Rutgers
The Scarlet Knights passing offense is ranked 70th overall in the country. Sophomore quarterback Gary Nova had a miserable game last week when he threw six interceptions and Rutgers had seven turnovers in the 35-23 loss to Kent State. Nova had just three interceptions previous to Kent State. This year Nova has completed 148-of-247 passes for 1,816 yards (59.9%) with 17 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Nova was having a terrific season leading up to the Kent State game. While Army is thankful former Rutgers wide receiver Mohamed Sanu has graduated and is now in the NFL, Nova has a number of excellent receivers who all play. Physical wide receiver Brandon Coleman (6-6, 220) led the Scarlet Knights in receptions and touchdowns. Coleman has caught 31 passes for 450 yards and six touchdowns. Last year Coleman beat Army cornerback Josh Jackson on a flag route for a 38-yard touchdown pass. Tim Wright is another 6-4 receiver with 27 catches for 337 yards (12.5 avg.) and two touchdowns. Mark Harrison has 28 receptions for 282 receiving yards (10.1 avg.) and four touchdowns. Speedy senior Quron Pratt (13 rec., 158 yards, 12.2 avg.) has seen more playing time in the receiver rotation recently. Big 6-foot-6 tight end D.C. Jefferson (16 rec., 1 TD) had the longest catch of his career, 53 yards, against the Black Knights in 2010. Sophomore running back Jawan Jamison is a threat of of the backfield with 23 receptions and two receiving touchdowns. Unlike the recent past Rutgers offensive line has allowed just six sacks this year.

This is a tough match-up physically for the Black Knights. I expect to see Army use more of a Cover 4 defensive scheme which is the "nickel defense" with five defensive backs against Rutgers. Army will try to pressure the Scarlet Knights with their usual assortments of stunts and twists up front. This isn't a good match up for Army's cornerbacks. Last year senior cornerback Josh Jackson had a horrible day in coverage. He was beat for both Rutgers touchdown passes. Plebe cornerback Chris Carngie (34 tackles, 3 pass def.) has struggled against faster receivers who employ double moves. Carnegie was beat by Air Force's Drew Coleman on a similar double move for a 55-yard pass reception on a fourth-and-9 pass play to the Army one last week. Carnegie also needs to tackle lower. If he goes high against these big physical receivers of Rutgers he will probably bounce off. Cornerback Marques Avery (12 tackles, six pass def.) missed last week's game with an injury but should be ready to go this week. Free safety Brandon Fusilier-Jeffires ( 66 tackles, 1 INT., 3 pass def.) had his first career interception against the Falcons and returned it seven yards to set up a touchdown. To have a chance Army needs to put pressure on Rutgers with their pass rush. Army has been very successful generating pressure against the Scarlet Knights with their flex front the last few games in this series. If the Black Knights fail to pressure Nova they will have trouble matching up with Rutgers speed and size at wide receiver and tight end.

Special Teams
Edge: Rutgers
Kicker Kyle Federico has missed the last three games with a hip injury, but is expected to be good to go after the bye week. Federico has hit 6 of 11 field goals this year. Justin Doerner is a very good directional punter. He is averaging 39.1 per punt. He gets good hang time and the punt coverage team is allowing just 5.6 yards per return. The Scarlet Knights are dangerous in their kickoff return game. As a team Rutgers is averaging 30.6 yards on kickoff returns with Jeremy Deering (33.2 yards per KOR) and Mason Robinson (25.3 yards per KOR) splitting the duties. Jeremy Deering took a kickoff back 98 yards for a touchdown last year. Mason Robinson hasn't been as effective on punt returns averaging just 3.5 yards per return. As Army found out last year, Rutgers is one of the best teams in the nation at blocking kicks. They have returned a blocked punt for a touchdown this year like they did against Army last season.

Army punter Chis Boldt (40.5 per punt) has been solid punting the ball this season with five downed punts inside the 20-yard line. Kicker Dan Grochowski hit from 20 and 36 yards but was way short on a 53-yard field goal against Air Force. The entire field goal unit did a nice job at the end of the first half with Army out of time outs racing on the field and hitting the field goal with three seconds left in the half against the Falcons. On the season Grochowski has hit 10-of-14 field goal attempts with a long of 46 yards. He missed his third extra point attempt last week. Julian Crockett had a nice 27-yard kickoff return to open the Air Force game but is averaging only 19.5 yards since replacing Stephen Fraser on kickoff returns. Punt returner Josh Jackson (-1.0 ret avg.) has regressed as a punt returner since his sophomore year. Jackson has good hands but needs to do a better job of fair catching the ball. He often gives up too early and allows the punt to roll costing field valuable position. Army's coverage teams have been good since San Diego State. Eric Osteen has boomed the ball all year on kickoffs with 24 touchbacks on 44 attempts.

Edge: Even
Kyle Flood was named the 29th head coach at Rutgers after former coach Greg Schiano resigned his position to become the head coach of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Schiano had built Rutgers into a Big East powerhouse. Flood had served on the Rutgers' coaching staff for the previous seven seasons. Flood came to Rutgers from Delaware where he helped the Blue Hens to a 30-11 including a 15-1 mark in 2003 to earn the NCAA FCS National Championship in 2004. Flood won his first seven games as Rutgers head coach before the upset loss to Kent State. Rutgers teams under Schiano have historically done a good job defensively against triple option teams.

Rich Ellerson and his staff have to get his young team refocused after the emotional win over Air Force. The Black Knights were fired up and played their best game on both sides of the ball last week in defeating the Falcons. Ian Shields rushing offense with its wishbone looks are different than the Navy option attack where Rutgers has successfully used the safety to take away the motion pitch back. Army's offense is less predictable in that they can mix the pitch and the dive back.

Edge: Rutgers
Rutgers enters the game off a disappointing loss to Kent State. The Scarlet Knights were undefeated and ranked No. 18 in the country heading into the game. Coming off a loss the Scarlet Knights should be ready to play and will not overlook Army with two weeks to prepare. Rutgers defense has been very successful in defending against option attacks. Rutgers has won eight straight in the series.

Army may be primed for a letdown against Rutgers after their huge win over fellow service academy rival Air Force. Rutgers is a tough match-up physically for the Black Knights on both sides of the ball with their team speed. Army has played poorly on the road. Army hasn't won on the road since the Bell Helicopter Bowl against SMU on December 30, 2010.

PREDICTION: Rutgers, 38-20. Army has played Rutgers tough lately but the Scarlet Knights are clearly a better team. I believe Rutgers is the most talented team on the schedule. Kyle Flood will have his guys ready to go after being upset by Kent State. Army's defense played well last week but Rutgers speed and size should cause them match-up problems like they have the last few years especially in the secondary.

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