Scarlet Report Game Preview and Predictions: Rutgers at Michigan State

In a clash of two teams stuck in the mud, Scarlet Report breaks down and predicts the action when Rutgers returns to Michigan State hungry for the first conference victory under coach Chris Ash. Who comes out on top and what is the deciding factor?

Rutgers (2-7, 0-6) at Michigan State (2-7, 0-6)

Time – Noon, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich.

TV/Radio – Big Ten Network, 1450 AM WCTC, 710 AM WOR, Tune In App

Series – Michigan State leads 4-3

Last meeting – Oct. 11, 2015, Michigan State won 31-24

Coaches: Rutgers – Chris Ash (1st season, 2-7); Michigan State – Mike Dantonio (13th season, 107-57, 10th at Michigan State, 89-40)

Projected Starters:

Offense: QB Giovanni Rescigno, RB Justin Goodwin, WR Jawuan Harris, WR Andre Patton, WR John Tsimis, TE Nick Arcidiacono, LT Tariq Cole, LG Dorian Miller, C Derek Nelson, RG Chris Muller, RT Kamaal Seymour

Defense: DE Darnell Davis Jr., DT Darius Hamilton, DT Sebastian Joseph, DE Julian Pinnix-Odrick, OLB Trevor Morris, MLB Deonte Roberts, OLB Tyreek Williams, CB Isaiah Wharton, CB Blessuan Austin, FS Saquan Hampton, SS Anthony Cioffi

Storyline Central

Without Me – This was a moment on Giovanni Rescigno's vision board since his late verbal commitment to Big-Ten-bound Rutgers. Under-recruited until the end of his senior season, Rescigno finally gets a chance in front of his home crowd. The new Rutgers starting quarterback traveled for games to Michigan, Michigan State and the Detroit Quick Lane Bowl while on the practice squad. This time, he leads a Rutgers offense on the rise in front of more than two-dozen friends and family.

Basement Battle – As Chris Ash so eloquently put it on Monday when asked about a game between two teams without a conference win, “We're in year one, and they're in year whatever. They're a team that just came off a national playoff; we're not.” Two teams got into this situation for different reasons, but on Saturday they come to the same place. Forget bowls, this one is about outright pride and attitude.

Safeties First – Safety is unlike most other positions at Rutgers. The unit is relatively healthy, and there is legitimate depth. What was a black hole less than a month ago against Michigan could be the strength of the defense against Michigan State. Sophomores Kiy Hester and Saquan Hampton are both refreshed and healthy, while senior Anthony Cioffi remains focused after he spent most of last Saturday on the bench. Cioffi practiced as a starter this week, but it will be a three-man rotation. The fourth man, K.J. Gray, rounds out a solid unit.

Matchup to Watch

Rutgers CB Isaiah Wharton vs Michigan State WR R.J. Shelton

The brightest spot of an inconsistent Michigan State offense could go 1-on-1 against a cornerback with a clear target on his back. Wharton was honest during the week that he expects Michigan State to go after him after last week, and he is ready for a challenge. Shelton came to Michigan State four years ago as the top running back out of Wisconsin before he became the top receiver on the roster as a senior.

Scarlet Knights win if …

Rescigno Plays Healthy– Hamstrings don't magically heal, but Rutgers needs as much mobility as possible out of Rescigno. It's simply a different offense without him as a real running threat.

Spartans Win if …

Special Teams Excels – Rutgers has a track record of issues against conventional special teams schemes. Michigan State can be anything but conventional with tricks and wrinkles always available. Should the Spartans hit Rutgers early in the special teams game, they grab a huge advantage.


Impact Player

WR Jawuan Harris – Fresh off the best statistical game of his young career, Harris leads Rutgers in receiving a team-high 29 catches and 379 yards. Harris fits out wide or in the slot, and he is the most consistent weapon through the air since Janarion Grant's season ended against Iowa.

Something to Prove

RB Justin Goodwin– If Goodwin is going to remain as the feature back, it requires more yards after first contact. An average running back gets the yards for which the play is designed. An impact running back turns four yards into 10 and 10 yards into a breakaway touchdown. Goodwin leads Rutgers with 802 all-purpose yards. He's second in rushing at 381. But the senior from Madison, N.J., hasn't scored a touchdown on the ground in 20 games.

Looking to Build

LB Trevor Morris – Jay Niemann called it the best performance for Rutgers against the run in a long time. Rest did a lot of good for Rutgers football, but will it continue against a physical Michigan State team that averages 164.3 yards per game on the ground? Morris leads Rutgers with 73 tackles as a first-year starter, including an improved outing against Indiana.

Freshman to Watch

RT Kamaal Seymour – The move to offensive line was inevitable for the quick-footed Seymour. The speed at which he established himself, however, is an unexpected surprise. Seymour's third-career start comes against Michigan State just two months into his career as an offensive lineman. Credit Seymour for an open mind and position coach AJ Blazek for getting him up to speed.

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