Offense: Rutgers boasts a legitimate running back, a solid offensive line and a quarterback with a year of real game experience under his belt. Mike Teel improved in the second half of 2006, but he threw 13 picks to 12 touchdowns last year. Rutgers' offensive line has a wealth of talent and depth that should benefit Rice, who needs to have big numbers early on if he is to stay in the Heisman Trophy conversation.
Buffalo could not move the ball last year and only scored 28 touchdowns. The Bulls feature newcomers at the running back spot and a quarterback who, while accurate in his completion percentage, had just six touchdowns to six interceptions last year.
Rutgers has better running backs, better receivers, a better offensive line and better
Defense: Rutgers is unproven, especially at the linebacker slot. Also, the secondary, while talented, is not deep. Those two units could get a workout later in the season when teams that can mix the run and pass well appear on the schedule (think Sept. 29 and beyond). The offensive line is stout, led by Foster.
The Bulls return their entire secondary. But Buffalo's defense yielded more than 35 points per game last season compared to a stingy 14.3 by Rutgers. Buffalo was 66th against the pass last year and 109th against the run (RU was sixth and 17th, respectively). While that doesn't necessarily translate to raw numbers this year, it's hard to make up that much ground in one offseason.
Special teams: It's hard to argue with Jeremy Ito's proven success. However, the Scarlet Knights were suspect on kick coverage last year. Now, it looks like Ito will handle kickoffs, field goals and punting. Don't expect him to do much of the latter in this game, but the extra duties could wear on him later in the season.
Buffalo has a big-play threat in Roosevelt, and he could victimize a Rutgers kickoff and punt unit that allowed a kickoff return for a TD against Louisville and a punt return for a score against Kansas State in 2006. However, the rest of UB's special teams feature a weak punter and place kicker.
Coaching: RU head coach Greg Schiano displayed the ability to make adjustments at key times last year, especially in victories over Louisville, USF and Pittsburgh. His defensive abilities showed themselves when Rutgers emerged as one of the best scoring defenses in the nation last year. He has recruited well and is getting top-notch athletes to the Banks.
UB coach Turner Gill has the credentials as a successful college player and assistant coach, and he knows what it takes to win at a top-flight program like Nebraska. But his team was 2-10 in his first season at the helm last year. Schiano has the experience factor going for him.
Intangibles: Rutgers Stadium is sold out and will be rocking for the opener. It seems the whole area is finally embracing the Scarlet Knights, and momentum is building. The Scarlet Knights are 10-2 at home the last two seasons. Buffalo plays poorly in both opening games (winless in its last 10 tries) and on Thursday night (1-5 since 2001). Judging by coverage in the local media, Buffalo area fans are more interested in the Buffalo Sabres' outdoor National Hockey League game against the Pittsburgh Penguins next New Year's Day than they are of UB's football campaign.
Recent history: Rutgers has appeared in two consecutive bowl games after failing to put together a winning campaign for 13 straight years. The Scarlet Knights have the area buzzing and are likely to put together another bowl campaign in 2007. Buffalo has not won more than two games in a season since 2001 and has one winning season in the past two decades. The Bulls are building some excitement through recruiting, but they are still behind the 8-ball when it comes to victories.