Howard (0-1) at Rutgers (0-1)
Time – Noon, High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.
TV/Radio – Big Ten Network, 1450 AM WCTC, 710 AM WOR, Tune In App
Series – Rutgers leads 4-0
Last meeting – Sept. 6, 2014, Rutgers won 38-25
Coaches: Rutgers – Chris Ash (1st season, 0-1); Howard – Gary Harrell (5th season 18-25)
Next in Line – Chris Laviano starts but if this FCS matchup is anything like the last 10, the backup quarterback becomes a major storyline. Whether it was Laviano's return from suspension for starter Hayden Rettig last year or his debut as Gary Nova's backup two years ago, playing experience is crucial. The coaches themselves explained that Laviano is not a perfect fit for their ideal offense, and Saturday should be the first look at backup Giovanni Rescigno. Will Rescigno be the only other quarterback in action? Will Ash consider time for Zach Allen or Tylin Oden?
Decision Day – For true freshmen that did not see the field in week one, Saturday against Howard could be decision day when it comes to red-shirts. Rutgers is thin in the secondary and repped both K.J. Gray and Damon Hayes in practice this week. Quarterback Tylin Oden remains his own storyline when it comes to the search for a best fit in Drew Mehringer's offense.
Fresh Start – Ash turned the offseason into his own 'Final Deletion' with the massive changes in tradition and behind-the-scenes attitude. One tradition that remains, however, is tomorrow's “Scarlet Walk.” Ash hinted at atmosphere and tradition changes to the game-day experience in his first year, and the first year for athletic director Pat Hobbs. Saturday will be the first time plans go into action with game-day traditions like ACDC, an in-game deejay, the canon and the postgame alma mater in front of the student section.
Matchup to Watch
Rutgers needs a better traditional pass rush, and this is the best chance with a pair of experienced athletes against the vulnerable Howard offensive line. Howard attempted 31 passes and 35 runs in a comparable matchup against Maryland. The Terps sacked Howard quarterback Jason Collins only twice. Rutgers should put up a higher number and win the field position battle.
Scarlet Knights win if …
They Keep it Simple, Safe – Rutgers is 4-0 against Howard and 101-36-10 in home openers. Upsets over BCS teams are always possible, just ask Virginia, but the talent discrepancy between Big Ten and MEAC is a massive one. No need to get tricky or make wholesale changes because last week was a rough loss for Rutgers. Stick to the game plan and Ash's home debut should be a comfortable one.
Bison Win if …
Rutgers Implodes – The Rutgers defense was a mess in the last meeting with Howard but still left with a two-touchdown victory over the Bison. Press-man coverage needs major breakdowns for Howard to get going through the air. Howard showed discipline against Maryland, but needs a lot of luck to go with it at Rutgers for anything close to an upset.
QB Chris Laviano – Lack of protection, separation and deception should not be problematic when the talent gap is at such a wide margin in Rutgers' favor.
Something to Prove
RB Justin Goodwin – The fifth-year senior put up an excellent training camp but did it really translate to the field against Washington's physical defense? Goodwin retains his starting role for now but Josh Hicks and Trey Sneed are hot after his opportunities with Robert Martin as another dynamic option when healthy.
Looking to Build
FS Kiy Hester – Hester played well when Saquan Hampton injured his shoulder in the opener. That role likely expands against Howard with Hampton's health concerns. Hester is a former four-star safety prospect out of Wayne (N.J.) DePaul Catholic and the new coaching staff brought some of that out of him against Washington.
Freshman to Watch
LB Tyreek Williams – Now that Williams saw the field as a true freshman, it's time to get a deeper look at him as a linebacker. Defensive coordinator Jay Niemann lauded Williams' maturity level compared to other newcomers. In a game that should be out of reach by the third quarter, let's see what Williams has as a linebacker in addition to his special teams responsibilities.null