Preview: Cincinnati at Rutgers

First place in the Big East is on the line tomorrow at High Point Solutions Stadium when the Cincinnati Bearcats come to Piscatway. Rutgers holds a five-game losing streak against the Bearcats and the stakes have not been this high since 2006. previews the action.

Cincinnati (7-2, 3-1) at Rutgers (7-3, 3-2)

Time: 12:01p.m., High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.
TV/Radio: ESPNU, 710-WOR, 1450-AM, 97.5 FM, 88.7 WRSU
Series: Cincinnati leads 8-7-1
Last meeting: Nov. 20, 2010: Cincinnati won, 69-38
Coaches: Rutgers – Greg Schiano (11th season, 66-66); Cincinnati – Butch Jones (2nd season at Cincinnati, 11-10, 5th overall season, 38-23)


  • Team Bring It.In terms of a conference championship, tomorrow's game is the most important game since the 2006 season. With a win, Rutgers is one step closer to a share of the Big East Championship and a shot at a BCS bowl berth. With a loss, the Scarlet Knights are still bowling, but on a smaller scale.

  • Senior Day. The last home game of the season, Rutgers says goodbye to 16 seniors prior to kickoff. Along with the seniors on the active roster, Rutgers will honor Eric LeGrand for his Senior Day.

  • Case of the Munchies. Rutgers has a spotty history with backup quarterbacks, including games against West Virginia's Jarrett Brown, Cincinnati's Chazz Anderson and Maryland's Jordan Steffy. With Zach Collaros out for the Bearcats, Rutgers faces backup Munchie Legaux, who came in after Collaros' injury last week against West Virginia.

Scouting Cincinnati

Offensively, the story begins with running back Isiah Pead. Pead torched Rutgers at Nippert Stadium last year. Pead needs just 66 yards to crack 1,000 this year and is, according to coach Greg Schiano, the toughest running back they have seen all year. Pead totaled 249 yards and five touchdowns against Rutgers last year. At quarterback, Rutgers has an advantage in not having to face Collaros, but Legaux is not a pushover. He led two long drives as a backup last week and the 6-foot-5 three-star prospect from New Orleans is a legitimate dual-threat quarterback.

Quarterback Munchie Legaux
Defensively, Cincinnati beings with a stellar front seven. The Bearcats lead the Big East in rush defense. Facing the Scarlet Knights, who are not known as a successful running team, Cincinnati has the advantage. The secondary, however, is vulnerable so expect plenty of passes from the Rutgers offense. Quarterback Chas Dodd hit receiver Mark Harrison for four scores last year in a 38-point performance.

Matchup to Watch
Cincinnati running back Isiah Pead vs. Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene. Pead's successes last year against Rutgers and through his first nine games of 2011 are well documented. Greene's spectacular season at a new position are equally documented. Greene leads a linebacker group looking for a better performance against Pead.

What Rutgers Must Do Offensively
Limit QB Turnovers.It sounds obvious because it is. Whether it is Dodd or Gary Nova at quarterback, turnovers are a major issue for the Scarlet Knights in closing out games and letting others slip away.

What Rutgers Must Do Defensively
Make Legaux Beat Them.If Rutgers lets Pead take over the game, then it is over. Legaux, in his first start, has never seen anything like the relentless Rutgers defense. Turn over the young quarterback and Rutgers greatly increases its chances at a win.

Three keys for a Rutgers win
Isiah Pead
1. Knuckle Up. The worst statistical rushing defense in the conference needs to at least contain Cincinnati. Stopping the run game is unlikely, but preventing it from being the game-changer is all the front-seven needs to do.

2. Blow the Roof Off. A strong showing from the Rutgers fans tomorrow can be an X-factor. The more hostile the environment, the less successful Cincinnati's no-huddle, spread offense becomes.

3. Learn From Navy. The Rutgers defense held Navy to a season low in rushing yards, but was far from perfect. Facing a similar offense, Rutgers needs to stay awake against the Army passing game and prevent the fullback from any gashing runs up the middle.

Three keys for a Cincinnati win
1. Run That Ball. Legaux had some beginner's luck against the Mountaineers, but a full game against the feisty Rutgers defense is another story. The less Legaux needs to do, the better position the Bearcats are in to win.

2. Stuff the Run. Rutgers still has no identity in the run game and Cincinnati is the best in the league at stopping it. Make Rutgers entirely one dimensional and the Bearcats can devote more attention to the passing game that torched them last year at Nippert Stadium.

3. Special Teams Execution. If not for two blocked field goals, a blocked punt and a kick return, Rutgers is nowhere near 7-3 this season. Cincinnati needs to be as conservative as possible on special teams to prevent assistant coach Robb Smith's special teams schemes from turning the tables.

Rutgers 28, Cincinnati 24

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