RUTGERS' OFFENSE VS. ARMY'S DEFENSE
Two words: Ray Rice. The diminutive true junior leads the Big East in rushing yards, rushing average, all-purpose yards and rushing touchdowns. He has yet to register a 200-yard game this season, but this is his best chance. Rice has come on in recent weeks, rushing for at least 100 yards in four straight games. The Scarlet Knights also have a chance to the right the ship in the passing game after sputtering for two straight weeks.
Army gives up more than 400 yards of total offense per game and is 109th of out 119 teams in Division I-A in rushing defense, giving up 212.7 yards per game. The Black Knights have allowed two running backs to eclipse the 200-yard mark this year, including Air Force's Chad Hall, who ran for 275 on the Black Knights last week. Army has held only two teams to under 300 yards of total offense this season, and its last two opponents have combined for 1,052 total yards.
ARMY'S OFFENSE VS. RUTGERS' DEFENSE
Army has been unable to move the ball, especially on the ground. The Black Knights have yet to find a running back who can emerge as a big-game threat, though Patrick Mealy looked to be heating up versus Georgia Tech three weeks ago. Army has gained more than 300 total yards only twice this year and has run for more than 100 yards only three times. No individual Army running back has reached the century mark.
RU has its troubles against the run this year and has given up 510 yards on the ground over the past two weeks. However, the Scarlet Knights remain strong against the pass and are ranked fifth in the nation in pass defense with 161 yards against per game. Also, Rutgers has registered 24 sacks while Army has given up 27.
There's nothing special about Rutgers in kick and punt coverage, and the Scarlet Knights are timid on returns. Place-kicker Jeremy Ito, who was lights out for three seasons, is a tepid 74 percent on field goal attempts this year and has one of the worst punting averages in college football. Kick coverage has been no great shakes either, as Rutgers allows 23.5 yards per return, including a 97-yard touchdown return from Connecticut's Tyvon Branch.
Army possesses an outstanding punter and two excellent return men. Owen Tolson, averaging 45.9 yards per punt, can flat out boom the ball and consistently pins opponents inside their own 20-yard line. Jeremy Trimble and Corey Anderson are deadly return men, and each has a return for a touchdown this year.
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano undoubtedly has player talent on the Banks, but you could say he and his staff have been out-coached several times this year (exhibits A, B and C: Maryland, Cincinnati and Connecticut). However, Rutgers is playing at a higher level than ever in the past few years and has more expectations than it ever has. That is due to coaching.
It has been a rough first year for Army head coach Stan Brock, and backers for the Knights of the Hudson are restive for a return to some semblance of a competitive team. He has his team playing undefeated ball at home, but Army could very well finish the season 3-9 after starting 3-3 for the second straight year (Bobby Ross was last year's coach). Army players don't quit, but Brock is already talking about changing the scheme for next year -- never a good sign for the current campaign.
The game is likely to be sold out, and Army is calling for a blackout. However, you have to wonder how many fans in the stadium will be clad in scarlet. After all, Army is the closest opponent to Rutgers' campus, and evidence seems to indicate there will be a large contingent of Rutgers backers in the crowd. Army is undefeated at home this season and is 8-2 in its last 10 at Michie Stadium.
The Scarlet Knights shine during night games during the week. They are 3-1 on Fridays, including a 41-24 victory against Navy earlier this year, and they have won their last four regular-season weekday games. Rutgers is the more talented team; the Scarlet Knights have to make sure they show it.
Rutgers has begun to build a tradition on the Banks after years of futility, and the fruits of those labors are being seen in bowl games. The Scarlet Knights still have not qualified for a BCS game and have never won a Big East title. However, they are 23-11 since 2005.
The U.S. Military Academy has one of the richest football traditions in the nation. However, Army has not put together a winning season since 1996. The Black Knights have not come close to winning the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy, given to the best service academy, since defeating Air Force and Navy in 1996. That was Army's last bowl berth and last winning season.