RUTGERS' OFFENSE VS. UCONN'S DEFENSE
RU has the top running back in the Big East in Ray Rice, who averages 142.6 yards per game rushing and has scored 13 touchdowns on the ground. The Scarlet Knights also have a bevy of playmakers in the passing game, as Tiquan Underwood, Kenny Britt and Tim Brown have emerged as threats. Mike Teel is the second rated passer in the Big East, though his numbers have dropped in recent weeks (purportedly due to a banged up thumb).
UConn counters with the conference's best scoring defense that allows only 13 points per game. The Huskies are second in the nation in turnover margin and are tied for the most interceptions in college football with 18. Robert Vaughn and Scott Lutrus have combined for nine interceptions this year, and Lutrus has scored twice off picks. UConn has held four opponents under 100 yards rushing this season.
UCONN'S OFFENSE VS. RUTGERS' DEFENSE
The Huskies started out of the gate quickly but have cooled offensively in recent weeks. UConn's offense has managed just four touchdowns in the last three games after averaging more than 36 points per game through their first five. The Huskies' best matchup is their running game against RU's run defense. New Brunswick's own Andre Dixon leads the way with 101.7 yards per game on the ground, and the Huskies back up the run with intelligent, albeit pedestrian, play from quarterback Tyler Lorenzen.
Rutgers will be able to get through UConn's offensive line and get to Lorenzen on the pass rush. He has been sacked 20 times this year. However, RU has been largely unable to force turnovers, creating three turnovers in the last three games while coughing the ball up six times.
Both teams have had their issues on special teams in recent weeks. Rutgers has lost three turnovers on punt returns in the past two weeks, and UConn had a punt blocked against USF last week that turned into a safety. Both place-kickers are hitting field goals at or below 80 percent, but three of UConn kicker Tony Ciaravino's misses are from 50 yards or beyond.
UConn has a better punting game, a better kickoff and better punt and kick return men. The Huskies have scored two return touchdowns (one legitimate, one shady), and kick returner Tyvon Branch leads the Big East in average yards per return.
Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano has knocked off the No. 3 and No. 2 teams in the last couple of years and has built Rutgers from a perennial doormat into a respectable Big East team. He is 2-3 versus UConn but has won his last two meetings with the Huskies.
UConn head coach Randy Edsall was embattled this time last year on his was to a 4-8 season, the Huskies' second straight losing campaign. Now in his ninth year at the helm of Connecticut, Edsall has put together a 48-52 record that has seen the Huskies make the transition from Division I-AA to the Big East. He led UConn to its first bowl game, the Motor City Bowl after the 2004 season, and has the Huskies in first place in the Big East.
Rutgers is coming off its most demoralizing loss of the season, a 31-3 loss to West Virginia where it seemed the Scarlet Knights could do nothing right. Rutgers' youth is showing this season in a team that seems to be adrift rather than one that is focused.
UConn is riding high after beating a ranked team for the first time in school history last week when the Huskies topped No. 10 USF 22-15. The Huskies boast one of the best defenses in college football statistically and have been able to effectively shut opponents down. Rentschler Field should be loud and nasty toward Rutgers Saturday night.
The Scarlet Knights have emerged from being one of college football's doormats to contending for bowls. RU is one win away from being bowl eligible for the third straight year and has been hovering around the top 25 since early last season. During the past few years, there has been unprecedented excitement surrounding this team.
UConn is playing its fourth season in the Big East after making the move up from Division I-AA. The Huskies seemed to have plenty of momentum after winning the Motor City Bowl in 2004 but followed that with back-to-back losing campaigns. They have turned the ship around this year and are already bowl eligible.