Preview: Rutgers vs. South Florida

For the second time this season, a ranked team travels to Rutgers Stadium to take on the Scarlet Knights. No. 2/3/2 South Florida (6-0, 1-0 Big East) has barely broken stride this season and faces off against a Rutgers (4-2, 1-1) squad that has struggled at times, but ended a two-game losing streak last week by easily defeating Syracuse. SOR delivers this week's breakdown.

The Bulls, who are No. 2 in the first BCS rankings this year, sleepwalked through an entire game against Florida Atlantic the first week of October and the first half of the game against Central Florida last week. USF found itself in a dogfight at FAU (3-3) on Oct. 6. FAU kept pace with the Bulls, and the teams were in a 14-14 tie midway through the third quarter before USF put the game away on the legs of sophomore quarterback Matt Grothe and running back Benjamin Williams for a 35-23 victory.

Last week UCF (3-3) hung with USF for the first half before the Bulls put on the jets and blew past the Knights for a 64-12 rout. Grothe registered 100 yards and two touchdowns rushing and was 15-for-28 passing for two touchdowns.

USF is fast and nasty, a deadly combination for opponents this season.

Everything flows from Grothe, an athletic signal caller who is not afraid to try to break contain and beat defenses with his legs. In the past two weeks against FAU and UCF, Grothe has gained a combined 220 yards on the ground and has scored three rushing TDs. As a passer, Grothe has been accurate but has coughed the ball up when pressured. West Virginia and Auburn bottled up Grothe, limiting him to fewer than 200 yards passing and less than 40 yards rushing. The Mountaineers picked Grothe off twice.

The Bulls average 180.5 yards per game rushing and 213 yards per game passing. USF has a balanced attack, but the team has fumbled the ball 10 times this season, most in the Big East.

The axiom that "defense wins championships" is something USF is banking on this season. The Bulls have a fearsome defense that gets after the ball and forces opponents into mistakes during key moments of a game. USF has registered 21 takeaways and sports a plus 8 in turnover margin (compared with RU's minus 1 turnover margin). It also leads the Big East with 20 sacks.

USF has not allowed an opposing runner to gain 100 yards on the ground since Ray Rice put up 202 yards in last year's 22-20 Rutgers win in Tampa. The Bulls allow 106.3 yards rushing per game and held UCF's Kevin Smith, previously the leading rusher in the nation, to just 55 yards. USF boasts the nation's 11th best defense with 284.3 yards against per game. The team has allowed just two teams to score at least 20 points.

USF place-kicker Delbert Alvarado has been erratic this season, especially during the Auburn game when he missed four of his six attempts (one that missed so badly wide that it nearly landed in the sideline stands). He is 7-for-12 (58.3 percent) on field goal attempts and is 5-for-9 from 30 yards and beyond.

Like Rutgers place-kicker Jeremy Ito, Alvarado handles punting duties this year, taking over for Justin Teachey after the season opener. Unlike Ito, Alvarado has stood out in the punting game, averaging 43.4 yards per punt and landing seven of his 25 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line.

1. USF's running game vs. Rutgers' rush defense
RU has been exposed in the running game the last three weeks, yielding an average of 167 on the ground during those games. The Bulls average 180.5 yards rushing per game, split mostly between Grothe and running backs Benjamin Williams and Mike Ford. The Bulls have scored 16 touchdowns on the ground versus 10 in the air.

2. RU's pass defense vs. USF QB Matt Grothe
Grothe broke contain against Rutgers late in the game last year and gave the Scarlet Knights fits with his ability to make plays outside the pocket. He is the Bulls' leading rusher this year, so RU will not be able to pin its ears back and blitz at will. While Rutgers is likely to pressure the sophomore signal caller, that will leave room for passes. Grothe has completed 59.1 percent of his pass attempts this season with seven touchdowns to three interceptions.

3. Rutgers' receiving corps vs. USF's secondary
Of particular interest is the matchup of USF cornerbacks Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins against RU receivers Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood. Williams and Jenkins have combined for four interceptions, 62 tackles and 16 pass breakups. Britt and Underwood have combined for 1,315 yards and eight touchdowns on 61 receptions. RU's Tim Brown adds another dimension to the Scarlet Knights' passing game.

QB Matt Grothe
The Rutgers game was where Grothe started to really figure out how to play at the college level last year, especially during the second half. He was USF's leading rusher against Rutgers last season and took over the game on a late fourth-quarter USF drive touchdown drive where he was 4-for-4 for 49 yards, including a 16-yard scoring strike. This season Grothe is not setting the world on fire with his passing numbers (101-for-171 for 1,121 yards; 183.3 yards per game average). But he has killed his last two opponents on the ground, gaining 220 yards and scoring three times rushing. Grothe has the ability to create plays with his vision and feet.

LB Ben Moffitt
Moffitt, a four-year starter, is the heart and soul of USF's defense. After registering zero interceptions in his previous three years, Moffitt has collected three picks this year and has taken one to the house. He leads the Bulls with 52 total tackles (eight for loss) and has broken up two passes. Last year Moffitt had eight tackles against Rutgers.

DE George Selvie
The sophomore standout leads college football with 11 1/2 sacks this season. He also has 21 1/2 tackles-for-loss this year. Selvie relies on speed to beat offensive linemen and wreak havoc in the opposition's backfield. Look for Rutgers to put a fullback on him to mitigate his impact.

QB Mike Teel
The redshirt junior had a rough two-plus weeks that culminated in an interception on the opening drive at Syracuse last Saturday. He recovered nicely to finish the game with his third straight 300-yard passing performance and hit nearly 70 percent of his attempts. This week he faces a formidable pass rush and will need to continue making good decisions.

RB Ray Rice
Rice got back on track with 196 yards and three touchdowns against Syracuse last week. It was his first 100-plus yard game since Sept. 7 and his first multiple touchdown performance since Sept. 15. Rice now has 13 touchdowns on the season and averages 136.3 yards per game. The true junior, who averages 180 yards rushing in two games against the Bulls, faces a USF defense that has not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season.

SS Ron Girault
The true senior co-captain should be back in the lineup after missing two straight weeks due to a leg injury. Glen Lee and Joe Lefeged filled the gap nicely, but Girault brings a mix of run and pass defense that is tough to replace. Expect the youngsters to see playing time, but also expect Girault to work his way back onto the lineup.

The schools are 1-1 all-time, both meetings coming during Big East play.

Rutgers headed to Tampa with a No. 23 ranking on Sept. 30 last season and escaped with a 22-20 victory on a Friday night national broadcast. Jason McCourty broke up a Grothe two-point conversion pass attempt to seal the victory for Rutgers and keep its perfect season alive.

In 2005, USF jumped all over Rutgers, running out to a 21-0 lead before the Scarlet Knights could figure out what was happening. RU mounted a late comeback that fell short in a 45-31 loss. That started a two-game skid that ended with a 56-5 loss at Louisville the following week.

Rutgers is 1-3 versus ranked teams since the beginning of 2005. The Scarlet Knights beat No. 3 Louisville and lost to No. 15 West Virginia last season and lost to No. 20/24 Cincinnati on Oct. 6 this year. RU is 5-2 on weeknights since 2001 and 3-2 on Thursdays during that same time span. The Scarlet Knights are 15-10 at night under Greg Schiano, 9-5 at home.

USF is tied for the nation's longest winning streak at eight games. The Bulls are 1-1 in weekday games since last season, losing to Rutgers last year and beating West Virginia earlier this season.

Rutgers: Ron Girault should be back in the line-up, although the decision will be a game-time one.

USF: Center Nick Capogna is questionable with a knee injury. He missed the UCF game and was replaced by Jack Griffin. Guard Matt Huners is doubtful due to a knee injury.

The weather is calling for a 30 percent chance of showers and a game time temperature in the middle 60s. Click here for the complete forecast

The game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EDT with kickoff expected at 7:46 p.m. and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN. The broadcast team consists of Chris Fowler, Craig James, Doug Flutie and Erin Andrews.

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