Time: 7:30 p.m., Nippert Stadium
Series: Tied, 7-7-1
Last meeting: Sept. 7, 2009: Cincinnati won, 47-15
Coaches: Rutgers – Greg 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.