The eighth game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 141, 3-4) and Big East Conference Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Sagarin 78, 4-2). Army leads the all time series 18-17, however Rutgers has won the last 5 games, including last year's 30-3 blow-out at New Brunswick. Army needs to win a game where they are a big underdog to get to 6 wins. The team, fans and cadets will be pumped up for a Friday night ESPN game.
Army played a good game against a heavily favored Temple, but they were not sharp enough to win in a tough 27-13 loss.
Army limited Temple to 195 total yards and forced an interception, but penalties and a couple of bad breaks thwarted the effort. Uncharateristically, Army committed 14 penalties for 100 yards. This helped Temple get out to a 13-0 lead. Army clawed their way back into the game and tied the game 13-13 with 4:06 left in the third quarter. It seemed as though they had the momentum and that they were going to win the game, but midway through the 4th quarter, Army was held on a 4th and inches on their own 24. The following play Army intercepted Charlton's pass and a flag for pass interference was picked up because the ball appeared to have been tipped. But a review showed that the ball hadn't been touched, so the penalty stood and Temple kept the ball. Steelman fumbled on a sack and Temple recovered on the 1 yard line. Temple scored a touchdown and the game was out of reach for Army.
In Piscataway, Rutgers gave up 376 yards and turned the ball over twice in a 24-17 loss to Pitt. Tom Savage was 22/39 for 248 yards. Rutgers was only able to generate 38 yards on the ground.
What we Learned
There will be some bumps in the road to improvement. This was a game that Army could have won. They fought through self-induced adversity to tie the game 13-13. They were stopped twice on 3rd and 4th and short. An option team needs to be able to make a fourth and one play.
I expected many more passes last week, but it is improving. This offense needs to get to the point that any time that there is single coverage, Steelman checks off and throws a pass. We may not be there for three more years, but it is getting there.
At Rutgers, we learned that this may be an ordinary Rutgers team. They were beaten in the first game of the year by Cincinnati, who is materializing as a BCS team and then loss to Pitt, who may be the second best team in the Big East. Rutgers will try to run, but can effectively pass if they have to.
Who is favored?
Rutgers is favored by 9.5 points.
What to look for?
This game will be a lot of fun to watch. Can Army's new defense match up against Rutgers' offense? We will not know until the game is played, but I imagine that Army will blitz, stunt and create confusion until they tire.
Will Army be able to generate any offense whatsoever? If so, will they do it via the pass or will the option actually work? I would imagine that Army will have to throw often to keep the linebackers out of the backfield.
I expect Rutgers to try to establish the run. When that fails, Savage will go to the air. Will Army be ready? Army must limit Rutgers to under 300 total yards if they have any hope of winning this game. Of course that is completely reliant on the offense holding onto the ball for 35 minutes.
Final Score – Rutgers 20 - Army 14 (predictions this year 2-5)
The game will be presented on ESPN2 @ 5:00 PM EST.