Title Trek: Game Preview

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Whatever happens with West Virginia and Pittsburgh tonight, Rutgers can still win a share of its first Big East Championship tomorrow with a win over Connecticut. ScarletReport.com previews the action.

Rutgers (8-3, 4-2) at Connecticut (4-6, 2-3)

Time: 12:01p.m., Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Conn.
TV/Radio: ESPN2, 710-WOR, 1450-AM, 97.5 FM, 88.7 WRSU
Series: Rutgers leads 21-9
Last meeting: Oct. 8, 2010: Rutgers won, 27-24
Coaches: Rutgers – Greg Schiano (11th season, 67-66); Connecticut – Paul Pasqualoni (1st season at Connecticut, 4-6, 20th overall season, 139-78-1)


  • The Big Game.This is it. A Rutgers win means at least a share of its first Big East Championship. At best, multiple dominoes fall today and Rutgers is headed to the BCS with a win. At worst, with a win, Rutgers has its first conference title and finishes 9-3.

  • Rivalry Game. Rutgers has had Connecticut's number the last three times, but that has not stopped some close games and memorable moments. Chas Dodd went off in his first career start to beat the Huskies last year. Tom Savage and Tim Brown made the play of the 2009 season on an 81-yard pass to win it in the last minute. And in 2008, Rutgers got to 2-5 on the season thanks to a safety by Blair Bines against Donald Brown.

  • Rutgers vs. Pasqualoni. Pasqualoni takes over at Connecticut where the Huskies are struggling in his first year. But the long-time Syracuse head coach historically has Rutgers' number. In 14 seasons as the head coach at Syracuse, he went 12-2 against the Scarlet Knights.

Scouting Connecticut

Rutgers likes to refer to the Connecticut game as a "final exam." That makes sense for a lot of reasons. The Scarlet Knights face another top running back, after stopping both Ray Graham from Pittsburgh and Isiah Pead from Cincinnati in victories. UConn's Lyle McCombs is over 1,000 yards on the season and runs behind a tough offensive line. Connecticut uses two quarterbacks in Johnny McEntee and Scott McCummings. McEntee runs the pro-style system and McCummings operates out of the gun-run. Rutgers has seen and succeeded against both styles, but showed vulnerabilities in the spread against Ohio and West Virginia.

Running back Lyle McCombs
Defensively, Connecticut is second in rush defense and seventh in pass defense this season. The last time Rutgers faced a top run defense, Jawan Jamison ran for 200 yards against Cincinnati. Quarterback Chas Dodd has been average at best since returning as the starter, but has an opportunity to make plays against an ineffective pass defense. The Huskies are sixth in the Big East in sacks and total defense.

Matchup to Watch
Connecticut running back Lyle McCombs vs. Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene. The Big East's leading tackler faces off with the leading rusher. Greene helped Rutgers hold Pead to28 yards last week while McCombs ran for just 33 against Louisville.

What Rutgers Must Do Offensively
Run That Ball.If the Scarlet Knights can run for 200 yards against Cincinnati, they can do it against anybody.

What Rutgers Must Do Defensively
Continued Success.Everything Rutgers tried against Cincinnati worked well and that needs to continue to win the conference title. The defense stuffed the run, flustered a young quarterback and forced turnovers in the victory.

Three keys for a Rutgers win
WR Mark Harrison
1. Mental Toughness. With no help from the media, Rutgers has had to hear about the implications of tomorrow's game all week. Rutgers must not come out flat and that begins with preparing like business as usual all the way up to kickoff.

2. Spread the Wealth. Receiver Mark Harrison has two big games against Connecticut in his career and Brandon Coleman is nearly uncover-able when he is on his game.

3. Special Teams. The last three Rutgers and Connecticut games came down to just one or two plays. If Rutgers makes the one big return or block, that could be the difference.

Three keys for a Connecticut win
1. Don't Get Too Cute. Rutgers knows all too well how using two quarterbacks in a game can get ugly fast. If one of the Huskies' two quarterbacks gets something going, stick with him.

2. Motivation. Connecticut is nowhere near the title chase but still has a reason to take the field. For one, it is senior day. But more importantly, Connecticut needs to win out to become bowl eligible.

3. Special Teams Execution. This goes both ways. Connecticut stayed in contention in 2009 with a huge kick return. Assistant coach Robb Smith has to be on his game like he has been all season.

Rutgers 21, Connecticut 7

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