The Knights will face South Florida for the first time ever this weekend at Rutgers Stadium, and with a win would clinch a bowl game for the first time since 1978. Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano said he couldn't recall a time when he faced a team with so much rest this far into the season.
"I think they are in the driver's seat right now with a great break", Schiano said.
"Not only is South Florida well rested, we've just played one of the most physical games we've played all season", declared Schiano in reference to this past weekend's game against Navy. "We have to really be careful about the number of repetitions we have this week in practice."
Fortunately the oft injured Knights suffered no major injuries during that game.
Schiano had nothing but praise for the 3-3 (1-1 BE) Bulls, who have lost two games to top ten teams this season.
"There's as talented a football team as we've played this year," Schiano said.
"I liken them to West Virginia but I think they run better." High praise considering the Knights' last defeat came at the hands of the Mountaineers.
He singled out USF running back Andre Hall who is second in the league at rushing at 100 yards per game.
"Their running back is really, really good. Probably the best back we've faced all year."
Was this praise a little too much for a team that hasn't won on the road yet? Schiano didn't think so.
"I think this league is very, very balanced", he said. "There are a lot of good teams, but they are knocking each other off. It makes for good games. It might not be the best thing for the league that no one can run away and establish themselves as the team, obviously with the exception of West Virginia, who hasn't lost one yet."
Schiano, of course had praise for his own team as well, after they clinched a winning season with Saturday's victory over Navy, referring specifically to the team's maturity.
"This football team is different from any that we have had here", he said. "The ability to focus on the things that we can control, and not let circumstances dictate to us what we focus on. I think that's one of the things that maturity brings."
One would think that an 18-21, 221 yard, Big East Player of the Week performance would secure any quarterback his starting job, particularly when the potential usurper has thrown 7 interceptions in 75 attempts.
But, that is not the situation for Ryan Hart – not this week.
Stories circulated in the press yesterday which restarted the quarterback controversy, which had died for a week due to redshirt freshman Mike Teel's shoulder injury during the Connecticut game. While Schiano appears set on Ryan Hart being the starter, and even went as far as saying, "I think Ryan Hart will be the starting quarterback", it seemed that this was by default, rather than by choice.
While he was appreciative of Hart's efforts, and ability to come back after having been benched, Schiano was hardly effusive in his praise, saying "What we've done is that we've limited our mistakes. He's done what we expected him to do." He added, "I think that's our job as coaches. To try and take your player's talents and fit them best to what they can do."
Schiano did, however, rule out Teel playing this week if he isn't completely ready.
"Unless Mike is 100%, he's not going to play at all unless it's a necessity." He later added, "I would never take a guy off the field that we can win a game with and replace him with a guy who's less than 100%", asserting that both Hart and Teel could win the game for the team.
Unfortunately for Hart questions about his ability to lead the team seem to surround him, even after his stellar performances in the past six quarters of play. While his job may be safe for this week Schiano did say that "If and when Mike is able to play again I will try to make the right decision. Whatever is best for the football team."
DID YOU KNOW?
The Scarlet Knights defense, lead by Senior Ryan Neill is second in the nation in tackles for a loss, with 10.38/game.