Game Preview: Rutgers at Tulane

NEW ORLEANS — The time of the Flood is upon us. Kyle Flood is hours away from leading his team out of the locker rooms for his first game as the head coach of the Scarlet Knights. ScarletReport.com is on site at the Superdome to preview tonight's season-opening clash between Rutgers and the Tulane Green Wave.

Rutgers (9-4, 4-3 in 2011) at Tulane (2-11, 1-8 in 2011)


Time: 8 p.m., Super Dome, New Orleans, La.
TV/Radio: CBS Sports, 710-WOR, 1450-AM, 610-WIP, 88.7 WRSU
Series: Rutgers leads 3-2
Last meeting: Oct. 2, 2010: Tulane won, 17-14
Coaches: Rutgers – Kyle Flood(1st Season, 0-0); Tulane – Curtis Johnson (1st season 0-0)

Storylines

  • The Time of the Flood.After 11 years of Greg Schiano, Flood's era begins Saturday night with his first game as a head coach. Flood kept many parts of the program the same and overhauled other parts with many new assistants and a different type of training camp. Tulane will be Flood's first opportunity to coach a game from the head man's spot where he and Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson each lead their new teams in a non-conference clash.

  • Grudge Match. Losing 17-14 on Homecoming was one of the darker moments in the late stages of Schiano's career at Rutgers. An injury to start Tom Savage and a woeful 29 rushing yards from the tailbacks was the first in a series of setbacks that concluded in a 4-8 record. Rutgers, with a different coach and many new players, will get a shot at revenge and a chance to make a statement.

  • Nova Time Quarterback Gary Nova won the starting job two weeks into training camp. After an up and down true freshman season filled with big plays and big turnovers, Nova gets his first shot to prove he is ready to lead Rutgers this time around. After losing his job to Chas Dodd at the end of last season, Nova put a big emphasis limiting mistakes and maximizing positive plays out of the huddle. The passing game was brutal in 2010 against Tulane and needs to improve for the Scarlet Knights to start the year right.

Scouting Tulane

Tulane runs a pro-style offense and has capable players in both the run and pass game. With Johnson's experience with the receivers of the New Orleans Saints, look for Tulane to be pass heavy. Led by quarterback Ryan Griffin, who beat Rutgers at home in 2010, Tulane will try to get the better of the Rutgers secondary. Running back Orleans Darkwa is the player to watch on the ground. Darkwa did not play because of injury in 2010 against Rutgers, but totaled 924 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2011 and finds himself on the Doak Walker Award Watchlist.

The latest updates have Darkwa as doubtful for the game. Without Darkwa, Tulane's run game is in big trouble.

Quarterback Ryan Griffin
Shotty defense was a key contributor to the Tulane 2-11 season and staff overall in 2011. Tulane was 83rd in the nation in total defense and gave up an average of 37.5 points per game to finish in the bottom five in the FBS. With leading tackler Trent Mackey suspended with legal issues, keep an eye on free safety Skakiel Smith, who has 35 starts under his belt.

Matchup to Watch
Tulane's Pass Rush vs. New Rutgers OL. If the Tulane defense did one thing well last year, it was recording 27 sacks. The Green Wave turns over most of its defensive line from last year, however. How will the younger players stack up against the Rutgers offensive line's size advantage? The starting Rutgers offensive lineman all have experience, but are either at new positions, coming back from second-team work or, in R.J. Dill's case, join a new team. Rutgers halved its sack number from 2010 to 2011 and will need to do so again to reach the goal of a Big East title.

What Rutgers Must Do Offensively
Control the Tempo.Quarterback Gary Nova must show the silly turnovers are behind him and the line must show it can run block. The more Rutgers controls the tempo with a ground-and-pound approach, the lower the chances become of another stunning loss to the Green Wave.

What Rutgers Must Do Defensively
Continued Success.Greg Schiano is gone and it is Robb Smith's time to shine as defensive coordinator. The system has not changed and Rutgers has perhaps the best group of linebackers in the region. The defense has to do what it does best — force turnovers and wreak havoc on special teams.

Three keys for a Rutgers win
TE D.C. Jefferson
1. Ride the Hot Hand. Jawan Jamison and Savon Huggins are both capable of breakout games against the Tulane front seven. With the run game in question after last season, get one of the two tailbacks hot and allow him to take over the game.

2. Tight End Production. Even with Paul Carrezola's health in question following a Tuesday injury at practice, the Dave Brock offensive system will need tight ends and fullbacks making plays this season. Tulane will be hard-pressed to find a player strong and athletic enough to compete with D.C. Jefferson and it also provides a chance to get the tight end of the future, Tyler Kroft, some action.

3. Don't Look Ahead. Rutgers has huge games against South Florida and Arkansas this month. It was the same case in 2010 and Tulane left Rutgers Stadium with a win on Homecoming.

Three keys for a Tulane win
1. Harass Nova. Make Nova revert to his 2011 ways and Rutgers could be in trouble.

2. Stop the Run. Coach Curtis Johnson is more than just concerned about the Rutgers running game behind an intimidating offensive line. Force turnovers or hold Rutgers to its 2011 average of 2.8 yards per carry and Tulane has a shot.

3. Strong Running Game. There are multiple questions on the Rutgers defensive line and Darkwa has plenty of experience.

Prediction
Rutgers 24, Tulane 10

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