This series is turning into a bona fide rivalry, and Rutgers (1-5, 0-2 Big East) can start to set things right with a win over Connecticut (5-1, 1-0). Conversely, the visiting Huskies can plunge a dagger into Rutgers' season with a victory over the Scarlet Knights on RU's homecoming Saturday (ESPNU, Noon ET).
Who Has the Edge in the Connecticut-Rutgers game?
UCONN'S OFFENSE VS. RUTGERS' DEFENSE
UConn tailback Donald Brown is the leading rusher in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS, formerly Division I-A), with 177.8 yards per game, including two performances of at least 200 yards. He is the focus of UConn's power rushing attack, and he has reached the end zone 12 times this season, fourth-best among running backs.
While the Huskies focus on running the ball, passing has been difficult at times. Sophomore Zach Frazer made his first collegiate start in a 38-12 loss at North Carolina Oct. 4, and he was intercepted three times.
Rutgers should be able to handle UConn's passing attack, as the Scarlet Knights are first in the Big East with 166.7 yards passing against per game. However, RU has had no answer for Brown the last two seasons. The Red Bank Catholic product has averaged 176.5 yards rushing and has scored three times in two games versus RU. In two games against teams that employ more traditional running sets (Fresno State and North Carolina), Rutgers yielded a total of 363 yards rushing (181.5-yard average) and four touchdowns on the ground.
Rutgers has still not forced a turnover against an FBS team this season.
RUTGERS' OFFENSE VS. UCONN'S DEFENSE
The Rutgers offense has been marked by inconsistency this season. The Scarlet Knights are last in the conference in rushing offense (113.2 yards per game) and scoring offense (17.5 points per game), and they rank next to last in total offense (318.3 yards per game). The peak performer for the Knights has been junior receiver Kenny Britt, who should register his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. Britt has 37 receptions for 464 yards, but he has yet to reach the end zone this year.
The Huskies have not been spectacular on defense, but they have not made many mistakes. The UNC loss can be attributed largely to poor offensive and special teams play, as the defense was handed a short field much of the game. UConn is a standout in the most important statistic: points against. The Huskies have allowed just a shade over 18 points per game this year.
UConn's punt team imploded against North Carolina, allowing three blocked punts, including one for a touchdown. That's an F grade performance for any team. Place-kicker Tony Ciaravino has been the one solid in kicking, as he has made six consecutive attempts.
After a rough start to the season, Rutgers' pair of redshirt freshmen specialists have calmed down and found a groove. Punter Teddy Dellaganna is booming the ball and averages 41.9 yards per kick this season, including 51 yards per punt in the last two games. Kicker San San Te has made his last five field goal attempts - including a 50-yarder against Cincinnati in a 13-10 loss last week. RU has been awful in kickoff returns, averaging fewer than 19 yards per return.
Randy Edsall built UConn to a Division I-AA program to one that garnered a share of the Big East title in 2007. Edsall, a Syracuse graduate, has UConn in contention for a major bowl for the first time and has guided the Huskies to 5-0 starts in consecutive seasons. He was a semifinalist for national coach of the year last season.
Greg Schiano won national coach of the year honors in 2006 after guiding Rutgers to its first 10-win season in school history. However, Schiano has not won a share of the Big East title, and he is now in year 8 of his tenure on the Banks.
Midway through the season, UConn looks to be on the same trajectory as 2007. The Huskies started this year 5-0, the same as last season, before losing to an ACC foe. Despite the blowout loss at North Carolina, the Huskies are playing with plenty of confidence thanks to Brown. The quarterback position has to be a concern after Frazer's first start.
After being complete lost in the first two games and suffering a crushing loss at Navy, Rutgers seems to have played better football lately. But the Scarlet Knights have been on the losing end of two close Big East losses in consecutive weeks, and an offense that set records last year is struggling to find the end zone this season.
HEAD TO HEAD
Rutgers owns the overall advantage 18-9-1, but the series has changed since Connecticut joined the Big East in 2004. The teams are 2-2 against each other in that time, with UConn taking the first game, Rutgers winning the next two, and the Huskies exacting revenge last season. The teams are 1-1 against each other at Rutgers Stadium. UConn beat Rutgers in 2001 and 2003 prior to joining the Big East, tilting the series 4-2 in the Huskies favor in this decade.
UConn won a share of the Big East championship last season, but the Huskies did not get the Bowl Championship Series bid and were relegated to the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, where they lost 24-10 to Wake Forest. UConn has been up and down, with a bowl bid in 2004 followed by two straight losing seasons in 2005-06; then a conference title in 2007.
The Scarlet Knights were the darlings of college football in 2006 before falling from grace in 2007. Still, Rutgers has won two straight bowl games and has been invited to three straight postseason affairs. Rutgers went from a doormat to respectable, a feat that is perhaps more difficult than starting a team from scratch.