Preview: Rutgers at Cincinnati

CINCINNATI -- Rutgers bowl hopes are in serious jeopardy, but that could change with a rare win at Nippert Stadium. has the scouting reports on both teams, the keys to the game, the matchup to watch and much more.

Rutgers (4-5, 1-3) at Cincinnati (3-6, 1-3)

Time: 7:30 p.m., Nippert Stadium
TV/Radio:SNY/, 1450-AM
Series: Tied, 7-7-1
Last meeting: Sept. 7, 2009: Cincinnati won, 47-15
Coaches: RutgersGreg Schiano (10th season, 59-60); Cincinnati – Butch Jones (3-6, 1st season, 30-18 overall)


  • Can the Scarlet Knights right things and still get to a bowl? At this point, Rutgers' bowl hopes lie with two crucial things: winning two of the last three to get bowl eligible, and Notre Dame losing to either Army or USC and not going to the Champs Bowl. The Scarlet Knights control only one part of it.

  • What will the offense look like? Chas Dodd and Tom Savage could both play as part of a planned two-headed quarterback, but Jeremy Deering will also run the Wildcat. How many snaps each player gets could be dictated by the offense's effectiveness.

  • Does the streak against Cincinnati end? Rutgers' lone win in Nippert Stadium came in 1987, and Rutgers has lost the last four games in the series, including last season's blowout in the opener. Schiano is 1-4 against the Bearcats.

Scouting Rutgers
How does the offense get its yards? And even if the offense moves the ball, will it finish drives? Those are questions that have circled around the Scarlet Knights all season, but one thing that is certain by now is Rutgers' reliance on the Wildcat to produce a running game.

Freshman Jeremy Deering, who is coming off a 166-yard, 29-carry performance against Syracuse, figures to be the central figure in the rushing attack. Between Joe Martinek's injured ankle and the inability of the offensive line to make holes out of conventional offensive sets, Rutgers' man rushing source is the Wildcat.

Jeremy Deering
And while the running game is a source of frustration, the quarterback situation is a source of uncertainty. Schiano is yet to name a starter, but that may not even matter since he said the game plan could include playing time for Chas Dodd and Tom Savage.

The adage of using two quarterbacks meaning you don't have any isn't accurate in this sense, but it does tell the tale of where Rutgers is offensively.

Dodd brings exceptional leadership, offers escapability in the pocket and fearlessness to try and fit the ball into tight coverages. Savage brings size, experience and a better understanding of the offense.

Defensively, Rutgers has had problems with Cincinnati's spread formation in the past, and the Bearcats' system will force the Scarlet Knights into playing nickel and dime packages more often.

The key is whether the Scarlet Knights can get pressure on Bearcats quarterback Zach Collaros, who brings the running element to the position as well. Rutgers was successful with a number of blitz packages against Syracuse last week, but with Collaros' ability to create big plays with his feet and arm, that is a dangerous approach.

Special teams have also become an issue for Rutgers, and it begins with field goal kicker San San Te. He is 11 of 12 inside of 40 yards, but 2 of 7 from 40 yards or more. Schiano said he remains confident in his kicker from long range.

Meanwhile, punter Teddy Dellaganna's availability is in question, which could pave the way for walk-on Kyle Sullivan to handle punts for the second straight week.

Scouting Cincinnati
The offense isn't the reason the Bearcats will be eliminated from bowl contention with their next loss. The rank first in the Big East in yards (409.2 per game) and are averaging 25.4 points per game.

Collaros leads the attack, completing 60.7 percent of his passes for 2,139 yards. He also has 20 touchdowns and six interceptions, but the offense has lost 12 fumbles.

Zach Collaros
The Bearscats have a splendid group of receivers, led by Armon Binns (57 catches) and D.J. Woods (48), who have combined for 16 touchdowns. Marcus Barnett (22), running back Isaiah Pead (20) and tight end Ben Buidugli (16) are each targets in the offense as well.

Pead is averaging 7.2 yards per carry (696 yards this season), but one thing Cincinnati is struggling with its pass protection, yielding 29 sacks.

However, the real issues come on defense. Cincinnati is last in the Big East in scoring defense (25.8 ppg), and are seventh in total defense (361.7 ypg). Opponents are completing 66.9 percent of their passes, and the Bearcats have managed only four interceptions. In four conference games, the Bearcats allowed 31.5 points per game as they feel the affect of youth.

Cincinnati starts four juniors and seven sophomores, including four in the secondary, on defense. The two-deep isn't much better as just two seniors are on it.

Matchup to Watch
Rutgers cornerbacks vs. Binns and Woods. If the Bearcats have to put together an 8-play drive, the chance for the offensive line to have problems and make a mistake increases. Therefore, limiting big plays down the field is a necessity. Rutgers cornerbacks Brandon Bing and David Rowe are not the most physical players, but that style would be effective against Binns and Woods.

What Rutgers Must Do Offensively
Break big plays. To believe Rutgers can sustain drives and get in the end zone is optimistic because something always seems to go wrong to stall a drive inside the 20-yard line. No Big East team has fewer red zone touchdowns, and it is not even close.

The Scarlet Knights have scored 10 touchdowns in 29 red zone possessions. Louisville, the next worst team, has scored 15 red zone touchdowns on 29 chances.

What Rutgers Must Do Defensively
Hit Collaros. The Bearcats' offensive line has had trouble protecting the quarterback, and hitting him early will upset his rhythm and give the defense confidence. Sacks are the best, but making him throw early before the receivers can make plays against the secondary is good as well.

Three keys for a Rutgers win
Chas Dodd
1. Find a quarterback to throw the ball down field. The Wildcat will produce something, but it needs a complement. Whether it's Dodd or Savage, stringing together completions will help immeasurably.

2. Win the special teams battle. Whether it's punt coverage, punt returns, kick coverage, kick returns or field goals, Rutgers needs to dominate in that area.

3. Believe they can win. At times, the offense will be ragged and defense will be bending, but three straight losses will have to be pushed out of the mind and mental toughness must win out.

Three keys for a Cincinnati win
1. Score early. It is going to be cold (game time temperatures around 40 degrees) and getting Rutgers down by a few scores in the first half, given the Scarlet Knights' offense, will make it seem like it is 10 degrees.

2. Frustrate Rutgers' offense. It isn't hard to do given the way the season has gone, but making Rutgers' defense realize the Rutgers offense cannot move the ball, even against the worst defense in the Big East, would be a huge psychological blow.

3. Beat Rutgers down the field. Rutgers is susceptible to matchup problems in covering a tight end with a linebacker or trying to use a defensive end against a running back. Plays are available against the Scarlet Knights down the field.

Cincinnati 31, Rutgers 23

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