Time: 2 p.m., New Meadowlands Stadium
Series: Tied, 18-18
Last meeting: Oct. 23, 2009: Rutgers 27-10
Coaches: Rutgers Greg Schiano (10th season, 58-57); Army – Rich Ellerson (9-9, second season, 69-50, 11th season overall)
- Rutgers quarterback Chas Dodd makes his second start amid high expectations after rallying the Scarlet Knights last week against Connecticut. He threw for 322 yards and two scores, but will see a much different looking defense from the Black Knights.
- Did Rutgers learn enough from the poor effort against Tulane not to follow last week's big win against UConn with a poor effort against Army? It shouldn't matter what system Army runs offensively if the Scarlet Knights' heads are in the game.
- Bowl hopes for each program could be on the line. A loss and Rutgers would have to go 3-3 the rest of the way to be bowl eligible, and with games at West Virginia, at Pittsburgh and at Cincinnati, that could be a chore. Army would have to win two more games with VMI, Air Force, Kent State, Notre Dame and Navy left on the schedule.
Scouting RutgersPreparing to play Army's option-based offense goes against the biggest strength of Rutgers' defense, and that is the swarming mentality. Instead, Rutgers needs to stay on assignment and not get caught peeking in the backfield for the ball.
It also means the middle of the defense better play well because Army's attack feeds off the fullback, and if the Scarlet Knights' defensive tackles and middle linebacker Steve Beauharnais have big games, it likely will mean the Black Knights' offense will struggle.
Offensively, Rutgers is still having trouble with penalties, and that has been killing drives. There needs to be better discipline because the offense isn't good enough to overcome the setbacks. Dodd has a quick release and understands how to hold the secondary with pump fakes, but the offensive line has had trouble picking up blitzes, especially through the right side of the line.
There was a concerted effort last week to run out of the conventional two-back set, and Rutgers should be able to build on that given Army's lack of size along the front seven. Running Joe Martinek's injured ankle is improving, and if he can find the holes between the tackles, it would open up play-action for Dodd.
Scouting ArmyThis isn't an offense to watch loosely while chatting with friends if you want to know what is going on. It is predicated on misdirection – i.e., confusing the defense – and can hit big plays in the running game even on third-and-long if the defense is missing assignments.
Fullback Jared Hassin is averaging 4.9 yards per carry and scored six of Army's 22 rushing touchdowns. He is instrumental in the offense, but it is quarterback Trent Steelman who makes things go.
Steelman, a sophomore, makes the reads on whether to hand the ball to Hassin, or give it to one of the split backs. Beyond Hassin and Steelman, the two most used options are slot backs Malcolm Brown (50 carries, 280 yards, 3 TDs) or Brian Cobbs (26-205, 3 TDs).
Steelman throws it about nine times a game, and is completing 55.8 percent of his passes. He doesn't have an interception, but if Army needs to throw the ball to win, it will be a long day for the Black Knights.
Defensively, Army plays a "flex" defense, which basically has a pair of defensive lineman off the line of scrimmage to read how a play is developing, and gives the linebackers and safety a chance to fill gaps to stop the run.
Matchup to WatchThe middle of Rutgers' defensive line against Army fullback Jared Hassin. If the Black Knights cannot get three or four yards a carry with the fullback, it means the most important threat in the option attack is neutralized. If he is getting through the line of scrimmage, the chunks of yardage will be enormous.
Just think back to 2004, when Navy had 631 yards of offense and fullback Kyle Eckel ran for 143 yards and two scores in a 54-21 win.
What Rutgers Must Do OffensivelyNot rely on quarterback Chas Dodd's right shoulder. If people are expecting results similar to last weeks' UConn effort, that is a problem. Because Army holds the ball for a while, Rutgers' offense has to be patient and multi-dimensional, or it could mean the defense is on the field too long and tires.
And when a player becomes physically tired, he often becomes mentally tired, and that could mean big plays for Army's offense.
What Rutgers Must Do DefensivelyStay patient and remain focused on assignments, and everything will be fine. Rutgers is bigger, stronger and faster than the Black Knights. It is why Army uses the option offense, because deception and misdirection are great ways to offset it. If Rutgers sticks to its assignments, Army will have trouble all game. Three keys for a Rutgers win
1. Turn Army over. With the option, there are chances galore to force turnovers. Rutgers' defense hasn't forced one in the last two games.
2. Run the ball. It doesn't have to be for 200 yards, but it must be enough for Dodd to use play-action and also keep the pressure from blitzes off the freshman signal caller.
3. Play with intensity and meaning. This isn't the old Army team of earlier in the decade, but it also isn't the old, old Army teams of national prominence. Playing hard doesn't always get it done. Playing hard and smart will get it down.
Three keys for an Army win1. Run and run and run. Army must limit possessions and frustrate Rutgers' defense into gambling on defense, and that never bodes well against the option. Army is averaging 275 rushing yards per game, and if it tops 225, it could be a long afternoon for the Scarlet Knights.
2. Confuse Dodd. He's a freshman making his second start. It was stunning how few times UConn blitzed him last week, but Army could be willing to change that. And Rutgers' offensive line is slow to react to blitzes.
3. Gadgets. Army can really get Rutgers off-balance if it finds a way to spring a surprise play or two on the Scarlet Knights' defense. It should eat up a large chunk or yardage or result in a score, and give Rutgers yet another thing to worry about.
Prediction Rutgers 21, Army 17