Game Preview: Rutgers at South Florida

TAMPA, Fla. – Rutgers heads to Greg Schiano country for a Thursday night clash with South Florida. Opening the Big East season in style, Rutgers and USF are both coming off wins and take the field on five days' rest. ScarletReport.com is on site to preview the action.

Rutgers (2-0) at South Florida (2-0)


Time: 7:31 p.m., Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.
TV/Radio: ESPN, 710-WOR, 1450-AM, 610-WIP, 88.7 WRSU
Series: Rutgers leads 5-2
Last meeting: Nov., 5, 2011: Rutgers won,20-17, OT
Coaches: Rutgers – Kyle Flood (1st Season, 2-0); USF – Skip Holtz (15th season 87-62, 3rd season at USF 15-12)

Storylines

  • Put Up or Shut Up.Rutgers and coach Kyle Flood have been highly outspoken about the goal of winning the Big East this season. South Florida is the most important game in the first half of the season in terms of reaching that goal. Rutgers traditionally has USF's number and needs to stop the Bulls and open conference play in the win column.

  • Passing Woes. Whether it is the scheme, Gary Nova or his receivers, the passing game has been a disappointment through two games. Likely a combination in all three areas, the passing game won it for Rutgers in last year's contest with late heroics by Chas Dodd. It needs to be more consistent tonight to make it two in a row.

  • Injuries. Rutgers suffered a slew of significant injuries against Howard and starters on both sides of the ball are questionable tonight for kickoff. Offensive linemen Andre Civil and Betim Bujari and running back Savon Huggins are all hurt offensively. Defensively, starting defensive end Marcus Thompson is questionable.

Scouting South Florida

The South Florida offense has been the B.J. Daniels show for four years now and Rutgers has had his number every time. Daniels is 1-2 against Rutgers in three starts with unimpressive totals. Completing 46 percent of his passes, Daniels has 448 passing yards, 90 rushing yards, four interceptions and three touchdowns. Cornerbacks Logan Ryan and Brandon Jones have their hands full in big-play receiver Andre Davis, who caught a 56-yard touchdown pass to beat Nevada in the final minute.

Quarterback B.J. Daniels
South Florida is always a challenge up front and Rutgers needs to beat the defensive line at the line of scrimmage to run the ball successfully. Nose guard Cory Grissom will be a dynamic problem inside at 316 pounds as a fifth-year senior. Also keep an eye on former Rutgers recruiting target Elkino Watson, who is expected to start.

Matchup to Watch
B.J. Daniels vs. Rutgers linebackers. Call it a spy. Call it playing up to the line of scrimmage. It's semantics, but it is up to the linebackers to keep Daniels from making plays with his feet. Steve Beauharnais has had success in shutting down Daniels in the past.

What Rutgers Must Do Offensively
Stretch the field.Rutgers has to open things up down the field in the passing game. Yes, this means that Nova and his receivers must improve, but Rutgers cannot beat USF by simply dumping off short passes to the outside and running the ball. Think about the wins over USF in 2007, 2009 and 2011 – all had a huge passing play that turned the tides.

What Rutgers Must Do Defensively
Contain.Rutgers needs to make Daniels a one-dimensional quarterback and force the Bulls to run the ball conventionally. With coordinator Robb Smith's schemes on defense, the run defense has been beyond dominant through two games.

Three keys for a Rutgers win
QB Gary Nova
1. Help Nova. Nova is what he is at this point, but his receivers are markedly better than the way they are playing out of the gates. Drops and bad routes do nothing to help a young, struggling quarterback.

2. Special Teams Execution. We say this every week, but it always factors into the marquee Rutgers victories. With Flood seeking a first marquee win, a special teams play can go a long way. Jeremy Deering and Miles Shuler have already made their presences felt. Who is next?

3. Convert on Easy Opportunities. Botched extra points, red-zone turnovers and missed short field goals cannot happen if Rutgers wants to win big games.

Three keys for a South Florida win
1. Win at the Line of Scrimmage. Rutgers has shown an affinity for short passes and tough runs. If South Florida can press the receivers and get good push with its defensive line, watch out.

2. Daniels to Davis. The Daniels and Davis connection won it for USF in Nevada. Put the ball in the hands of your best play-makers and trust them to beat out the tough Rutgers defense.

3. Mental Toughness. USF has to be completely exhausted after a brutal game on the other side of the country five days ago. The team got home at 4 a.m. Sunday and has had practice and class to get through all week.

Prediction
Rutgers 16, South Florida 10

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