Preview: South Florida at Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- After two straight Big East losses, Rutgers takes its third shot at bowl eligibility tomorrow night against South Florida. The Bulls have yet to win a conference game. previews the action.

South Florida (4-3, 0-3) at Rutgers (5-3, 2-2)

Time: 7:04 p.m., High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.
TV/Radio:, 710-WOR, 1450-AM, 97.5 FM, 88.7 WRSU
Series: Rutgers leads 4-2
Last meeting: Nov. 3, 2010: South Florida won, 28-27
Coaches: Rutgers – Greg Schiano (11th season, 64-66); South Florida – Skip Holtz (2nd season at USF, 12-8, 12th overall season, 84-58)


  • Quarterback Struggles.Gary Nova remains Rutgers' starting quarterback despite turnover issues. The true freshman took over for Chas Dodd midway through the Syracuse game, but will be on a short leash this week if the turnovers continue .

  • Winter Weather. The Scarlet Knights showed last week they can play at a high level in any conditions, scoring 31 points against West Virginia in a snowstorm. South Florida, which has yet to play a game in under-60-degree weather, faces colder conditions on a November night in Piscataway.

  • USF in Piscataway. The last two appearances by South Florida at Rutgers were momentum-building victories for the Scarlet Knights. In 2007, Rutgers beat the No. 2 ranked Bulls 30-27 behind a fake field goal pass from Andrew Depaola and 69-yard touchdown by Tiquan Underwood. In 2009, Rutgers blanked B.J. Daniels and the Bulls 31-0 on Thursday night, with big performances from Joe Martinek (128 yards and a touchdown) and Mohamed Sanu (105 yards and a touchdown).

Scouting South Florida

Offensively, quarterback B.J. Daniels represents a dual threat that Rutgers successfully defended in the past. Rutgers shut out Daniels the last time he played in Piscataway and fared relatively well against him in last year's 28-27 loss at Raymond James Stadium. In two games against Rutgers, Daniels completed 50 percent of his passes for two touchdowns and three interceptions. On the ground, he averages just over one yard per carry after factoring in sacks. South Florida is another Big East team with a sneaky running game that burned Rutgers in the past. Mo Plancher, who broke out for 135 yards last year, is gone but sophomore Demitris Murray represents a similar threat.

Quarterback B.J. Daniels
Defensively, the Bulls rank in the middle of the conference in both total defense and scoring defense. The USF pass rush is not the same that it used to be with George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul, but end Claude Davis can still create problems. He ranks fourth in the conference in sacks per game, and is tied for first in forced fumbles and fumbles recovered. Turnovers are a big part of USF's defense. The Bulls give up 23 points per game, but are third in the conference behind Rutgers and Cincinnati in turnovers. The Scarlet Knights are tied for second nationally with 26 turnovers and Bearcats are in fifth.

Matchup to Watch
Rutgers front-seven against USF QB B.J. Daniels. After minimal pressure on the last two quarterbacks — Geno Smith and Teddy Bridgewater — Rutgers needs to make Daniels make mistakes. Whether with a linebacker spy or pressure from the outside, the more defenders in Daniels face, the more likely he is to make mistakes. In two games against Daniels, Rutgers linebackers have 11 TFLs.

What Rutgers Must Do Offensively
Be Smart. Turnovers are the major issue for Nova the last two losses. The true freshman admittedly needs to learn to throw the ball away and not try to get too cute when escaping the pocket. If the turnovers persist, Chas Dodd may see some action. If they don't, Nova and the passing game are due for a breakout against the team Zach Collaros shredded two weeks ago.

What Rutgers Must Do Defensively
Watch Out for the Run.Greg Schiano and the Rutgers defense have success against Daniels in two career appearances, but the sneaky run-game got the better of the Scarlet Knights last year. With so much attention on a mobile quarterback, the defensive line needs to prevent the running backs from moving the chains. Rutgers uncharacteristically gave up 157 rushing yards in Tampa, Fla., last season.

Three keys for a Rutgers win
Savon Huggins
1. Limit Turnovers. This cannot be stressed enough. Rutgers cannot win many games if Nova continues to average more than two turnovers per game.

2. Don't abandon the run. Schiano said it himself after the loss, Rutgers should have stuck to the run in the second half against WVU. Jawan Jamison had the best game of his career last week and instead of giving him the ball trailing by three points, Rutgers went for the deep ball the entire fourth quarter.

3. Don't Shy Away from Trick Plays. Though because the fake field goal failed last week, Rutgers has a high success rate in its trick plays and should not hesitate to whip out one or two Saturday night to become bowl eligible.

Three keys for a South Florida win
1. Flush Nova out of Pocket. Nova gets in the most trouble when escaping the pocket. The majority of his mental mistakes — penalties, fumbles and interceptions — come after he escapes a crumbling pocket.

2. Lock on Sanu. Though other receivers like Tim Wright and Quron Pratt continue to find success, USF has to force those unproven wideouts to make plays instead of leaving Sanu in 1-on-1 coverage, where he consistently beats defenders.

3. Two-Minute Defense. USF jumped off to an early lead against Cincinnati two weeks ago, but surrendered 20 fourth-quarter points in a loss to the Bearcats, including the winning touchdown drive in the final 90 seconds.

Rutgers 24, South Florida 21

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