Preview: Rutgers at USF

TAMPA -- Rutgers returns from a 10-day break for a pivotal clash with South Florida at Raymond James Stadium today at 7 p.m. ScarletReport.com has the storylines, scouting reports, matchup to watch and much more as the extensive game day coverage begins.

Rutgers (4-3, 1-1) at South Florida(4-3, 1-2)


Time: 7 p.m., Raymond James Stadium
TV/Radio:ESPN2/710-AM, 1450-AM
Series: Rutgers leads, 4-1
Last meeting: Nov. 12, 2009: Rutgers won 31-0
Coaches: Rutgers – Greg Schiano (10th season, 59-58); USF – Skip Holtz (4-3 1st season, 76-53 11th season overall)

Storylines

  • Which way will each team's season go? Pittsburgh is the front-runner to win the Big East title, but second place and a nice bowl berth (Champs Bowl, anyone?) are up for grabs as Rutgers and Syracuse sit with one loss in the league and five teams are 1-2. If Rutgers wins this one, it is in prime position for a nice run to finish the season

  • Did Rutgers re-charge? After emotional wins and the tragic injury to Eric LeGrand, the Scarlet Knights needed time off. It has been 10 days since they fell apart in the second half at Pittsburgh.

  • Will possible personnel changes along the offensive line help? Rutgers hasn't been very good up front, and with a strong defense and good special teams, a dominating offensive line isn't needed to win games. However, a serviceable offensive line could make this a very dangerous team in the last month of the season.

    Scouting Rutgers
    Rutgers cannot handle the blitz. Maybe a 10-day cram session since the last game could change that, but Rutgers sits last in the nation in allowing 33 sacks this season, and it's not all on the offensive line. The running backs and tight ends are also at fault, the quarterbacks have held the ball too long and receivers don't always get open.

    Andre Civil
    Changes could be coming on the offensive line as Rutgers spent the extra few days of practice mixing and matching, and one possibility is red-shirt freshman Andre Civil playing at right tackle.

    Rutgers coach Greg Schiano tabbed freshman Chas Dodd as the starter, but added Tom Savage is healthy and available.

    Freshman receiver Jeremy Deering, who starred at Leto High of Tampa, returns home for the first time and has a prominent role as a receiver. If Mohamed Sanu's foot still isn't feeling strong enough, Deering also could run the wild cat.

    The health of running back Joe Martinek (ankle) is also key because he has performed well against the Bulls, who usually are not a physical team and often has trouble stopping smashmouth running attacks.

    Defensively, Rutgers has had trouble getting pressure on the quarterback, but in the past has had success stifling USF's dual-threat quarterbacks, be it Matt Grothe or B.J. Daniels. Last year middle linebacker Steve Beauharnais did a strong job of shadowing Daniels.

    Scouting South Florida
    It is all about B.J. Daniels on offense. He has throw six touchdowns and 10 interceptions but is completing 58.9 percent of his throws. He also has rushed for 225 yards and four scores and doesn't mind moving around, but he doesn't make the best decisions.

    Dontavia Bogan
    Daniels was 13 of 16 for 286 yards and two scores in a 38-30 win against Cincinnati on Oct. 22, which was USF's last game, but it doesn't mean Daniels has found his rhythm. Cincinnati is a bad defensive team, and in USF's two previous games, losses to Syracuse and West Virginia, the offense failed to score a touchdown.

    USF's top receiver is Dontavia Bogan, who has 27 catches and two TDs, and running backs Moise Plancher (80 carries, 363 yards) and Demetri Murray (55-274) factor heavily in the running game.

    Defensively, the Bulls are athletic and quick, and are expected to blitz a lot, and from different spots, given nearly two weeks to prepare and Rutgers' inability to protect the quarterback.

    The Bulls will be without defensive end Craig Marshall, who has two sacks, and that could take pressure off of Rutgers' offensive tackles.

    Matchup to Watch
    Rutgers linebacker Steve Beauharnais vs. USF quarterback B.J. Daniels. Traditionally, Rutgers used a spy to help neutralize the Bulls' quarterback, and if that is the case again, Beauharnais is the natural choice. He did it last year as the Bulls were shutout, and has the speed and size to catch up to Daniels and bring him down.

    What Rutgers Must Do Offensively
    Block someone – anyone – when it comes to pass protection. Freshman quarterback Chas Dodd has shown an ability to locate open receivers if given time, but in the loss at Pittsburgh 10 days ago he rarely had time to run through his progressions.

    What Rutgers Must Do Defensively
    Pressure Daniels. He likes to put the ball up for grabs, and making him throw sooner could force the turnover-prone quarterback to force passes and creates turnovers. But in pressuring Daniels, Rutgers has to be careful not to lose containment and keep him from scrambling for big plays.

    Three keys for a Rutgers win
    Chas Dodd
    1. Get some first downs and give the defense a chance. If Rutgers' defense is fresh, it can keep USF's offense in check. Getting first downs will also wear down USF, and allow Rutgers to win the field position battle.

    2. Run the ball out of a pro-set. Dodd is very good in play-action, and nothing sets it up like running the ball out of a traditional offense. Getting yards out of the Wildcat is good, but running out of the pro-set creates more options.

    3. Do something special. Rutgers offense needs help, and Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano has a history of calling trick plays against the Bulls.

    Three keys for a South Florida win
    1. Don't turn the ball over. That is always the case for teams to win, but giving Rutgers a short field (or a defensive touchdown) is something the Scarlet Knights may really need. Daniels has thrown nine interceptions in USF's three losses.

    2. Score early. USF hasn't scored a first-quarter point in the last three games, and playing from behind is not a strong point for a team averaging 17.7 points per game in Big East play.

    3. Keep the pressure on Dodd. Every team has had success getting to Rutgers' quarterback, with each opponent getting at least four per game in the last five games.

    Prediction
    South Florida 23, Rutgers 16

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