Time: Noon, Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, W.V.
TV/Radio: ABC/710-AM, 1450-AM
Series: WVU leads, 31-4-2
Last meeting: Dec. 5. , 2009: WVU won, 24-21
Coaches: Rutgers – Greg Schiano (10th season, 59-62); West Virginia – Bill Stewart (27-11, 3rd season, 35-36 overall)
- The Big East title. West Virginia gets it if it wins and Connecticut losses at night at South Florida. Rutgers has never won in Morgantown, and have a 15-game losing streak agaist the Mountaineers.
- How much pride does Rutgers have left? With nothing to play for but pride, the Scarlet Knights are trying to recover from back-to-back blowout losses in which they were outscored 109-51.
- Looking at the future. Rutgers has plenty of young players in key roles, and a strong showing at a place the Scarlet Knights never won could be a boost for the offseason, not to mention give Rutgers something positive to talk about as the recruiting season hits high gear a month early.
The once-hardy defense is missing assignments and missing tackles and this week could be missing senior cornerback Brandon Bing, who is doubtful with a leg injury he picked up during the week of practice. It means converted receiver Marcus Cooper could be in line for his first start.
Keeping freshman quarterback Chas Dodd upright will be a big thing, but defenses have gotten wise to the quick passes to take pressure off the offensive line, and playing bump-and-run coverage could force Rutgers' receivers to get loose off the line of scrimmage or it will another long day in the pocket for Dodd.
Running back Joe Martinek isn't healthy, and isn't expected to play, which means Jordan Thomas and De'Antwan Williams could be plenty of work if the Scarlet Knights decide to run out of the traditional I-back set like last week.
At least Rutgers has found a few capable receivers with Mark Harrison (41 catches, 8 TDs) and Keith Stroud (11 catches in last two games) to offset the loss of Mohamed Sanu, who should play but is banged up and severely limited.
Stewart also has the second-best 38-game record (27-11) in WVU history, and best since The Great Depression.
Turnovers, particularly fumbles, are the biggest issue for WVU's offense. The Mountaineers lost 13 of 21 fumbles (lost 4 of 8 against Connecticut), and 10 of their 19 turnovers came in losses to LSU, Syracuse and UConn.
Defensively, WVU is built for speed and blitzing, with the secondary able to cover plenty of ground. The Mountaineers have 34 sacks, and get them from a variety of places. Also, cornerback Keith Tandy is one for Dodd to stay away from. Tandy has six interceptions.
2. Don't give up early points. The best way to cut the will out of a team playing for nothing is to score early. If Rutgers can get into halftime with a chance, maybe they try and make their season by spoiling WVU's season.
3. Get lots of turnovers. The offense cannot consistently move the ball, so a few 35-yard drives will go a long way in helping them, and making the Mountaineers press.
2. Make sure turnovers don't happen. In the three losses, WVU turned the ball over 10 times. In eight wins, the Mountaineers turned the ball over nine times.
3. Don't party like it's 2007. That is when a play-for-nothing Pittsburgh team rolled into Morgantown 4-7 and a four-touchdown underdog and won 13-9. It knocked WVU out of the national title game, and set in motion the wheels for coach Rich Rodriguez to head to Michigan.