The Scarlet Knights spent the week hearing reminders of West Virginia's domination in the series, from the 14 straight wins by the Mountaineers, to Rutgers coach Greg Schiano holding an 0-8 record against West Virginia.
There is the never-to-be-forgotten 80-7 loss in Schiano's first season, and the ever-so-more painful triple overtime defeat that cost Rutgers its first conference title and a BCS berth in 2006.
So while the stakes don't seem that high – Rutgers can finish in a tie for third in the Big East with a win and gain a berth in the Meineke Care Car Bowl on Dec. 26 in Charlotte, depending on the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati outcome – there is plenty going on.
Plus, add in a big recruiting weekend in which six uncommitted and highly sought after high school seniors will be on official visits, and a bevy of other recruits will be on unofficial visits, there is plenty of significance in the nationally televised (ESPN) game.
Rutgers offense vs. West Virginia defense
Can Rutgers score with consistency?
The Mountaineers run an unconventional 3-3-5 defense, which is heavy on blitzing off the corners and utilizes speed much more than brawn.
Defensive tackle Scooter Berry and nose tackle Chris Neild sit in the middle of the defensive line, and both are hard to move off the line of scrimmage. However, middle linebacker Reed Williams is key in stopping the run through the middle, and is a sure tackler who tracks runners very well.
Rutgers' success of the "Wildcat'' package last week at Louisville gives hope to a running game that has been inconsistent, at best, but also puts a lot of pressure on freshman receiver Mohamed Sanu. He was magnificent in running for 148 yards against a slow-footed and unenthusiastic Cardinals defense, but West Virginia should pose more of a challenge.
|Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu|
But the biggest unknown is whether Rutgers quarterback Tom Savage can be patient against a Mountaineers defense that will vary its blitzes, and sit back in coverage and look for the big play. West Virginia doesn't do many things exceptionally well defensive, but it does force turnovers and intercept the quarterback.
Savage has done a tremendous job taking care of the football, throwing four interceptions in 231 attempts. But the Mountaineers have done a better job at intercepting the ball than anyone in the league. They have a conference-best 15 interceptions, led by Robert Sands (5), a read-the-quarterback's-eyes free safety.
The health of Rutgers receivers continues to be an issue, although coach Greg Schiano said Tim Brown (ankle) was ready and freshman Mark Harrison (head) could play for the first time in three weeks. And West Virginia has allowed 18 touchdown passes.
Rutgers needs to limit those two things in order to be successful.
The 5-8, 176-pound water bug Devine can score from anywhere on the field, even after he appears bottled up. He has a quick change of direction, and it doesn't take him long to hit full speed. If he gets in the open field, the only Rutgers defender capable of catching him is cornerback Devin McCourty.
Devine is second in the Big East in rushing with 1,232 yards, and he has scored 11 touchdowns. Rutgers has done well against him in the past, but sure tackling is a must. Devine does not break a lot of tackles, but he is the most elusive player in the Big East.
Brown brings a different look offensively.
He's not an exceptional thrower or runner, but does each effectively enough to create problems for a defense.
|Rutgers DE Alex Silvestro|
But Daniels was a red-shirt freshman with limited experience. Brown is a fifth-year senior who beat Rutgers in the triple-overtime game in 2006, and understands defenses much better.
He has completed 176 of 272 passes for 2,013 yards and 11 touchdowns, but also has throw eight interceptions. Brown is also the second-leading rusher (387 yards, five touchdowns), and at 6-4, 225 pounds, is difficult to tackle.
Rutgers likes to bring pressure to force the play, and usually do it with safeties and linebackers. Rarely, will the Scarlet Knights send a cornerback at the quarterback.
McCourty is key in defending the passing game because his coverage ability give Rutgers the flexibility to role a coverage to help sophomore cornerback David Rowe. The Mountaineers do not have explosiveness in the passing game, but they are effective, especially if too many resources are put into stopping Devine.
Rutgers has blocked kicks and returned a kick for a touchdown, but West Virginia is much better in the traditional special teams play.
West Virginia placekicker Tyler Bitencurt has made 12 of 13 field goal attempts, and Scott Kozlowski is averaging a league-leading 45.2 yards per punt.
Prediction: West Virginia 24, Rutgers 20