Game Preview: Rutgers at No. 17 UCF

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Rutgers had just five days to bounce back from the blowout loss to Cincinnati before taking the field as an underdog at UCF. Facing the top team in the American, Rutgers aims for an upset to get its season back on track.

Rutgers (5-4, 2-3) at No. 17 UCF (8-1, 5-0)

Time:7:31 p.m., Bright House Networks Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
TV/Radio: ESPN, 710-WOR, 1450-AM, 97.5 FM
Series: Rutgers leads 1-0
Last meeting: Dec. 19, 2009, Rutgers won 45-24
Coaches: Rutgers – Kyle Flood (2nd season, 14-8); UCF – George O'Leary (18th season, 120-89, 10th at UCF, 68-56)

Storyline Central

  • Quick Fixes -- Everything went wrong for Rutgers in a Saturday 52-17 blowout loss to Cincinnati, and Flood has just five days to figure out how to right the ship. Playing on the road, on a short week, against the top team in the American conference, the Scarlet Knights have a challenge to put it lightly. Rutgers made small depth chart changes, but the scheme remains the same defensively, Flood said Sunday night.

  • Distractions -- The national media swarm regarding Dave Cohen, Jevon Tyree, Ian Thomas and more did not make short-week preparations any easier. The locker room came together in full support of its coaching staff and teammates during a tough week, and that could be an advantage looking ahead to kickoff. Rutgers responded to adversity with power in the past, and will look to do it again tonight.

  • Bowl Rematch -- Just a handful of players and coaches remain on either side from the 2009 Beef O'Brady's Bowl. The game is famous in Rutgers circles for three Mohamed Sanu touchdowns, the final game first round picks Anthony Davis and Devin McCourty and a flip by Damaso Munoz.
Matchup to Watch
UCF receiver J.J. Worton against Rutgers cornerback Ruhann Peele

Worton made one of the best catches of the football season to beat Temple, and finished with 10 catches, 179 yards and three touchdowns against the Owls. When Peele moved from receiver to cornerback less than one month ago, he sky-rocketed up the depth chart and is the top defensive back on the roster for tonight's game. Peele rose up the ranks because he makes plays, and he will have to make more than one against a weapon like Worton.

Scarlet Knights Win If…
The Scheme Fits -- Rutgers does not plan on dramatic scheme changes, but matches up a lot better against a physical, run-heavy offense like UCF. The Scarlet Knights should be able to put up points (Temple scored 36 on Saturday), but it won't matter if the defense does not improve. Rutgers gets a few bodies back defensively in Lorenzo Waters and Darius Hamilton. It also allows for players with more playbook experience to help lead the defense, and limit confusion with the youth in the secondary. For Rutgers to upset UCF, slowing down quarterback Blake Bortles is a must. Rutgers has low odds of victory in a shootout.

QB Blake Bortles
Knights Win If …
Bortles stays hot -- Right next to Teddy Bridgewater as the best in the American, Bortles won multiple games with his arm this year, including a dominant 404-yard, four-touchdown day at Lincoln Financial Field. Bortles has five interceptions all year, and he is more of a threat to the Rutgers secondary than Cincinnati's Brendon Kay.


Impact Player
CB Ruhann Peele — Flood made him the top Rutgers cornerback specifically because of his ability to make impact plays. He has to do it tonight against UCF to justify the risk of putting such an inexperienced cornerback in the spotlight. Peele plays hard, and has all of the physical and mental tools to be successful at the position, but it is a position he still barely knows. Peele has two games as a cornerback under his belt after moving from wide receiver, and is in a bigger role against UCF than a guy like Gareef Glashen that has been there for four years.

CB Ruhann Peele
Something to Prove
DC Dave Cohen — Giving up 52 points had home has the defense in trouble, and it will be up to Cohen to slow things down with the youth at multiple levels. Cohen has had some success scheming against similar offenses like Louisville and Arkansas. If Rutgers holds UCF to a similar offensive output, there is a chance to pull off the upset. Distractions brought Cohen into the national spotlight over the last week, and how he responds in a nationally televised game after a poor effort Saturday will be worth watching.

Looking to Build
RB Paul James — The team's leading rusher averaged a season-low in yards per carry, but showed no signs of the lower right leg injury that kept him sidelined for six weeks. The plan is for James to start the game, and continue his role as a feature back. Junior Savon Huggins and freshman Justin Goodwin will be available to spell him, and need to be ready. Both played against Cincinnati and are expected to carry the ball tonight against the Knights.

Freshman to Watch
CB Anthony Cioffi — Still a target of opposing quarterbacks, Cioffi is usually in the right position but not ready to make plays on the ball. A victim of jump ball touchdowns against Houston and Cincinnati, Cioffi will be a target for Bortles either as the second cornerback starter or off the bench in nickel and dime situations.

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