SMU - Garrett Gilbert showed a little bit of his old self against TCU this past Saturday throwing five interceptions. He was not solely to blame for this because his offensive line disappeared after the first quarter causing him to get sacked seven times. Gilbert showed his capabilities in the first fifteen minutes of the outing being incredibly efficient and finishing a drive against a good defense. But his success was short lived. This week, he will go against a Rutgers defense that did a great job against Arkansas last week, earning three takeaways and five sacks but did give up 52 points to Fresno State, who Garrett Gilbert dominated in Hawaii last December.
Rutgers – After a stellar game vs. Fresno State in the first game of the season, Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova had been marginal until last week's game against Arkansas. Nova had a memorable fourth quarter bringing Rutgers back from a 17-point deficit late in the third quarter. Nova went 7-for-13, for 147 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter against the previously undefeated Razorbacks. Nova has not been routinely forced to be the main man in the Rutgers offense due to their running game but with leading rusher Paul James expected to miss several games, Nova may have to step up into a more prominent role. Nova possesses a great touchdown to interception ratio (9:3) and a completion percentage of over 55 percent through four games and will face an SMU defense showing progression but struggling to play four quarters of football at a high level.
SMU – The SMU running back situation is crystal clear but terribly unclear at the same time. Last week, starting running back Prescott Line got absolutely zero production while backup K.C. Nlemchi clearly proved to be the better back. Nlemchi added a nice spark to the SMU offense, churning out 46 yards while Line had just 10. Both had 10 carries. On the season, Line has been given 12 more touches than Nlemchi but has a total of three less yards (receiving stats included). You can do the math. Whatever Line does better than Nlemchi on the field it hasn't had much of an impact thus far but, it is certain that Hal Mumme and June Jones have a method to their madness. Even with the temporary competition in the backfield the fact still remains that the Mustang's offense is all about Garrett Gilbert and the passing. So if Nlemchi does win the starting job it probably won't make a difference if he isn't being utilized and Traylon Shead's return this week will more than likely put both Line and Nlemchi on the bench anyway.
Rutgers – The Rutgers backfield takes a critical hit with the injury of Paul James, their leading rusher. James has accumulated 573 yards (eighth in the country), is averaging 7.3 yards per rush (fifth in the country for rushers with 50 or more attempts) and has scored six times. With James out, Savon Huggins looks to take over the starting role. Huggins, a junior, has rushed for 3.5 yards per carry on 40 carries and will certainly get the opportunity to prove his worth with Rutgers having a propensity to pound the rock. SMU gave up 99 yards and two touchdowns to TCU's two leading rushers last week and had a bad game tackling so Huggins could be in for a decent day.
SMU – The SMU wide receivers have established a pattern where one of them will step up as the main man one week and then another will have a big game the next. Darius Joseph, Keenan Holman and Jeremy Johnson have all showed the ability to play at a high level, but none of them have the ability to dominate on a consistent basis. Johnson and Joseph are the leading receivers thus far and still rank as the top wide receiver tandem in the NCAA in terms of catches. Joseph is tied for third overall with 39 catches on the season. The slot position caters to Johnson and Joseph's skill sets and they will continue to get plenty of touches. It is still unclear what SMU is doing about the outside receiver position opposite Keenan Holman. With Der'rikk Thompson still recovering from injury, they tried Stephen Nelson who didn't do a bad job but then they switched to Arrius Holleman last week, who caught zero balls and has two receptions on the season. Many believe that freshman JaBryce Taylor would have a bigger impact at the position, but it remains to be seen if the staff will grant him the opportunity. Jeremiah Gaines is another option that the offense has not utilized as much as people presumed. But the bottom line this week is the slot receivers will be featured once again because Gilbert will have to get rid of the ball quickly against a great Rutgers pass rush. The Rutgers secondary hasn't been all that strong this year so the ball will be in Gilbert's hand to either make plays or waste opportunities. If the line can give him time, he might have a big day.
Rutgers – Gary Nova has done a great job of spreading the wealth to his receiving core this year. He has four receivers with 11 catches all of whom have more than 150 yards receiving. The receiver he is most comfortable with he has been throwing to since his days in high school. Sophomore Leonte Caroo leads Rutgers in receiving yards and has caught five of Nova's nine touchdown passes. Nova also has veteran experience coming from Quran Pratt and Brandon Coleman, both seniors. Both Coleman and tight end Tyler Kroft possess great size at 6-foot-6, 220-pounds and 6-foot-6, 240-pounds respectively. With Rutgers losing their leading rusher and the SMU secondary finally showing signs of revitalization -mostly from top corner Kenneth Acker- it will be interesting to see if Nova throws the ball more and how SMU will respond if he does so.
SMU – The SMU offensive line had everyone in Fort Worth in total disbelief last week. GGilbert looked like a new man in the first quarter. He took his time to survey the field and pick apart the TCU defense making some very accurate throws. He was poised, he was confident and most importantly he was comfortable, all because of the guys up front. And then there was the rest of the game. Seven sacks. Four interceptions. SMU is lucky Gilbert wasn't injured in the game because he took some nasty shots from the TCU defensive line, which was without elite pass rusher Devonte Fields. This week, they face the Rutgers defensive line, which happens to be the strongest position group on their defense. There is no way Garrett Gilbert can be successful without at least average offensive line play. So far they have been abominable.
Rutgers – The Scarlet Knights have not been getting good offensive line play either. Arkansas manhandled Rutgers early in their game last week, but the SMU defensive line isn't the same as the Razorbacks. Rutgers only has one player along the line returning at the same position as last year, which is a big reason for their struggles. They may be getting back a veteran in Andre Civil vs. the Mustangs this week, and he should make an impact at right guard. The SMU defensive front hasn't been too much of a load for teams to handle this year so Rutgers may be able to do enough to contain them, if not, then they will make adjustments to get the ball out of Nova's hands quicker.
SMU – The defensive line for SMU has struggled with consistency. Torlan Pittman's absence is becoming more noticeable as the weeks go on with SMU's opponents having no problem running the football straight through the middle of the SMU defense. The starting defensive linemen have only tallied three sacks and five tackles for loss so far this season but more importantly, have given up more than 100 yards rushing in each of their last three games. Even though the stat line isn't a very good indicator of how the defensive line is playing, they go AWOL all too often during games. They will make a great play and then disappear. With Elie Nabushosi, Cameron Smith and Zelt Minor coming off the bench to give the starters a breather, the defensive line as a unit needs to do a better job of controlling the line of scrimmage and being more competitive against the double team so that the linebackers can come up and make plays. They will have a chance to turn things around against a struggling Rutgers offensive line this Saturday.
Rutgers – The Rutgers defensive line is poised to have a great day against the Mustangs offensive line that has given up 17 sacks so far in 2013. Rutgers has tallied 11 sacks on the season and have seniors starting at three of the four positions across the line. But the lone underclassman starting, sophomore Darius Hamilton, might be the guy who makes the biggest impact according to Scarlet Report writer Sam Hellman. Hamilton, who was a five-star recruit from the Class of 2012, will be holding down the three-technique defensive tackle position in Rutgers' 4-3 defense. It is certain that Rutgers will attempt to harass Garrett Gilbert all day with pressure packages but if they can create disruption and penetration just rushing their four down lineman alone, that will allow the linebackers and defensive backs to be in favorable positions for interceptions and pass defenses.
SMU – The SMU linebackers haven't lived up to their reputation thus far and that is undoubtedly in part to the absence of Randall Joyner. Joyner came back against TCU and had an immediate impact in pass coverage and forced a fumble. But SMU still struggled in defending against the run even with the senior in the lineup. With Joyner back and healthy, he will improve the production of the linebacker unit and add that edge they have been lacking. Kevin Pope leads the defense in just about every category thus far and will probably benefit the most from the return of his teammate. The SMU linebackers will have to face a Rutgers team that loves to run the football this week and it will be critical for them to stop the run early putting the ball in Nova's hands who has been known to give the ball away on occasion. Nova likes to utilize big tight end Tyler Kroft so it will be up to one of the SMU linebackers to minimalize his production. Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro had a nice day against the SMU defense so it will be interesting to see if SMU has special plans to crop Kroft out of the picture.
Rutgers – Rutgers' impact player on the second tier of the defense is another youngster, redshirt freshman middle linebacker Steve Longa. Longa has impressed thus far, notching 12 tackles and two sacks vs. Eastern Michigan and two forced fumbles vs. Norfolk State. But Rutgers has yet to be at full strength at the linebacker position with outside linebacker Jamal Merrell still nursing a kidney injury. On Saturday, they will have a freshman, a sophomore and a junior starting at linebacker against an SMU passing attack that loves short to intermediate patterns coming across the middle of the field. With SMU failing to establish a consistent running attack so far, the Rutgers linebackers should be able to sit back and take advantage of the Mustangs one-dimensional offense especially if Rutgers jumps out to a lead early.
SMU – After struggling mightily in their first three games, the SMU secondary showed some fight against TCU. Starting cornerback Kenneth Acker arrived on the scene in a big way with some touchdown saving deflections and reminded SMU followers why he was considered one of the best defensive backs in the conference before the season. Safety Jay Scott also made some noise when he crushed a TCU wide receiver early in the first quarter. Scott's impact jarred the ball loose and when Chris Parks recovered it, the momentum swung in SMU's favor. The offense fed off that momentum and put together what some would consider SMU's most impressive drive of the year. The defensive backs are going to need more big plays like those if SMU is going to salvage their chances of going to a higher tier bowl game. But first they've got to focus on starting conference play with a bang against Gary Nova, who might put the ball in the air a little more than he normally does this game. He's got a few weapons that he's comfortable throwing to as was mentioned earlier, so the SMU secondary can either make this a statement game or shy away from the spotlight. They can't do it alone, they'll need at least some pressure from the front-seven but they have to take advantage of opportunities when they are there and play with that "s-word" they say they have. In Tampa, Florida (or maybe a small city called Dawson, GA where my grandparents are from I don't really know where it comes from) the saying goes, ‘either you're going to barbecue or mildew.'
Rutgers – The Rutgers defensive backs haven't faced a pass-crazed offense like the Raid-N-Shoot since their first game against Fresno State where they gave up 52 points. With one of their starting corners out, Rutgers will be starting two freshmen at cornerback vs. SMU. They do have a pair of veteran safeties over the top but anytime a team is placed in a position where they have to start two freshmen at arguably the most skilled position in football chances are the other team is going to attempt to exploit the inexperienced. Luckily for the two youngsters, all signs indicate that their pass rush will make it hard for Garrett Gilbert to be comfortable in the pocket which will significantly help in covering up their mistakes.
Overall Advantage: Rutgers, 3-2
SMU vs. Rutgers Position Breakdown
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