One hazard about being a quarterback under Rutgers coach Greg Schiano is that you're never more than a bad game or two away from the bench.
A year ago, true freshman Chas Dodd upended sophomore Tom Savage, who went from being the face of the program to an outgoing transfer within the course of the Fall semester. Now, it may be Dodd's turn to hit the bench in favor of Gary Nova, after Dodd struggled against Syracuse and Nova led the team to an overtime victory in relief.
With a pivotal game against Pittsburgh on tap for this weekend, the Scarlet Knights aren't going to make it easy on either the quarterbacks or the Panthers defensive coordinators.
"I haven't made a decision about that," Schiano said about his quarterback depth chart. "I'll make a decision when I'm ready to make it. I don't know when that's going to be."
Schiano said he isn't worried about the pressure getting to the two competitors, or that he's leaving them looking over their shoulder after every incompletion.
"I don't think they're going to feel that," he said. "We've played both in three of the four games. Two kids that are really good football players, that are great team guys, that are fully committed to this family, to this program. I just want to make sure I do what's right by them and by the team, and that's what I'll do."
He doesn't expect to make a final decision until closer to kickoff. In the meantime, the quarterback competition continues, as it seems to do every year on the Rutgers campus.
--The Scarlet Knights assistant coaches will have extra incentive to knock off the favored Panthers this weekend. Offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, tight ends coach Brian Angelichio and secondary coach Jeff Hafley were all on the staff of former Pitt coach Dave Wannestedt before joining Greg Schiano's staff when Wannestedt was fired during the offseason.
--Rutgers plans on honoring the 50th anniversary of the 1961 team at halftime this weekend against Pittsburgh. That squad was the first in school history to go undefeated, and the majority of the team was expected to attend.
--The Scarlet Knights are one of the worst rushing teams in college football, but that hasn't stopped the team from holding the football. Rutgers enters the week 117th out of 120 teams in rushing, but is third in time of possession. It averages holding the ball for 35:36 per game.
SERIES HISTORY: Pittsburgh leads Rutgers 21-7 (last meeting, 2010, 41-21 Pittsburgh).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Rutgers is winning games on defense and with the passing game. It's one of the worst rushing teams in football at 117th in the country, and doesn't generate many big plays, but it converts close to 44 percent of its third-down opportunities and chews up the clock anyway. To beat the Panthers, however, it's probably going to have to figure out how to churn up consistent yardage on the ground and keep whichever quarterback wins the job out of dangerous passing downs.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Pitt offers a number of unique challenges. It runs a fast-paced offense that discourages defensive substitutions, and has one of the best running backs in the country in Ray Graham. Rutgers has been very good at forcing turnovers this season, and will look to continue that trend against the Panthers.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's going to get better. I'm confident it will get better. I'm not saying we're going to be the pony express or anything, but it's going to get better." -- Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, on his running game.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Pittsburgh at Rutgers, Oct. 8 -- The Panthers overwhelmed the Scarlet Knights when the teams met a year ago, but that game came at a particularly emotional time. The game was the first for Rutgers since teammate Eric LeGrand was paralyzed after making a tackle in the Army game, and it started Rutgers' miserable season-ending slide into a losing record.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Rutgers has gotten a lot of offense out of its defense and special teams, either directly via touchdowns or by getting the ball back to its offense with a short field. It will have to continue to take advantage of those kind of mistakes against the Panthers, and hope that whichever quarterback gets the start can get the ball to his playmakers without making too many mistakes.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
WR Mohamed Sanu -- Despite being the top priority for opposing defenses and without a running game to keep the defense honest, Sanu has been one of the best pass-catchers in college football. He enters the week averaging 10.8 receptions per game, just shy of USC's Robert Woods who leads the nation at 11.0.
RB Jeremy Deering -- Deering was missing in action against Syracuse. Coach Greg Schiano said this week Deering was healthy, and that the coaching staff needed to get him more opportunities. He has the explosiveness to make the Pitt defense sweat if he can get space, and is an option to revitalize the moribund ground game.
LB Steve Beauharnais -- Beauharnais is the reigning Big East Player of the Week following his nine tackles, two sacks and interception in last week's victory over Syracuse. He'll have a tough challenge this week taking on the quick-paced Panthers attack.
--RG Antwan Lowery was replaced in the starting lineup by Betim Bujari two weeks ago. That might change this week, however, as Greg Schiano seemed to hint early in the week that Lowery could have his old spot back for the Pitt game.
--WR Brandon Coleman has a great offseason and was expected to be a key part of the passing game. That hasn't happened so far, as he has just three catches through four games.
--S Patrick Kivlehan is expected to be out again this week with a head injury.