WEST VIRGINIA'S OFFENSE VS. RUTGERS' DEFENSE
West Virginia has Pat White, Steve Slaton, Owen Schmitt and Darius Reynaud, a formidable attack that averages nearly 500 yards of total offense per game and is seventh in the nation in scoring at 42.1 points per game. White does not throw much (114 attempts), but he is accurate when he airs the ball out (71 percent completion rate, nine touchdowns to two interceptions passing). Slaton is an all-around back who puts up more than 100 yards per game and has scored 11 times (10 rushing TDs).
Rutgers allowed 407 yards the last time it faced a spread attack against Cincinnati in a 28-23 home loss on Oct. 6. The Scarlet Knights allow 135.7 yards per game on the ground and more than 300 yards of total offense per game. The defense does not force many turnovers this year (minus three). However, you can be sure RU coaches watched the tape from the Sept. 28 WVU-South Florida game. USF forced WVU into six turnovers while beating the Mountaineers 21-13 in Tampa.
Edge: West Virginia
RUTGERS' OFFENSE VS. WEST VIRGINIA'S DEFENSE
When quarterback Mike Teel is healthy and running back Ray Rice gets a lot of touches, Rutgers is a force to be reckoned with. The Scarlet Knights score 36.1 points per game, and Rice leads the conference with 142.7 rushing yards per game and 13 rushing touchdowns. Teel is the eighth-rated passer in the nation and has put up four 300-yard passing games this season. Receivers Tiquan Underwood and Kenny Britt have combined for 1,456 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns this season.
West Virginia's defense has been stingy this season, holding opponents to fewer than 90 yards on the ground. The Mountaineers rate fourth nationally in total defense, holding opponents to just 254.7 yards per game and limiting them to fewer than 17 points per game. WVU's linebacking corps is solid, led by Mortty Ivy and Reed Williams, and safety Ryan Mundy is dangerous in the defensive backfield. The Mountaineers have forced 18 turnovers this season, including nine interceptions.
Both of these teams possess above average place-kickers who double dip as punters with limited success. RU kicker Jeremy Ito, 12-for-16 on field goals and 31-for-31 on extra points, knocked home three field goals last week in the 30-27 win over South Florida, including a 51-yarder that was the eventual game-winner. One of his misses this year was a 56-yard attempt in Week 1 that appeared to be an attempt gauge his outside range. Another was a 48-yard attempt that was blocked by USF last week.
West Virginia kicker Pat McAfee has missed only one field goal attempt this year and has made nine straight attempts, including a 49-yarder and a 42-yarder. McAfee is 25-for-31 on field goal attempts since the beginning of last season, though he has missed one PAT this season.
Neither team is any great shakes in the punting department, as Rutgers and WVU stand at the bottom of the conference in punt yardage. Neither Ito nor McAfee has much success getting the ball deep on kickoffs this year.
Vaughn Rivers is a dangerous return man for WVU. On the other side, Rutgers is still searching for a sure-handed punt returner after turning the ball over three times on returns this season (including twice against USF last week).
West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez has won three Big East titles and registered the biggest win in the history of the revamped Big East when his Mountaineers toppled Georgia in the Sugar Bowl following the 2005 season. Rodriguez has guided WVU to a 56-25 record in six-plus seasons and has won at least a share of the conference title three times.
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano was named coach of the year by several outlets last season, but he has yet to take RU to a BCS bowl. The New Jersey native, 23-9 since 2005, resurrected a program left for dead and has it on target for its third bowl game in as many years.
Edge: West Virginia
Both of these teams are playing for the Big East championship. West Virginia has owned the series, winning 12 straight and 28 out of 34 overall. The Mountaineers have bounced back from an early season loss to South Florida and are still alive for a BCS bowl. WVU needs help to win the Big East, but the Mountaineers likely will stake their claim to at least an at-large BCS bid if they win out.
Rutgers is in control of its own destiny this season. After losing two straight earlier this season, the Scarlet Knights can claim the Big East title by winning out (thanks to Cincinnati's two consecutive conference losses). RU benefits from another sold out Rutgers Stadium, which has proved to be raucous this year.
West Virginia has been one of the class programs of the Big East over the years, winning at least a share of the conference title four times, including three years in a row from 2003-05. The Mountaineers are in the top 10 for the third consecutive season.
Rutgers has made its mark by beating top 10 teams at home twice in the past two seasons (upending No. 3 Louisville last year and No. 2 USF last week). The Scarlet Knights are just one win away from being bowl eligible for the third straight season and can claim the Big East title by winning the remainder of their games.
Edge: West Virginia