Game Preview: Vols vs. Rutgers

Who: Tennessee (2-1) vs. Rutgers (1-3) When: Saturday, Sept. 28, 7 p.m. EDT Where: Neyland Stadium TV Broadcast: Pay per view cable Radio: Vol Network affiliates Series: UT leads 2-1 Odds: UT 41-point favorite<p>

Plot: After last week¹s collapse against Florida, Tennessee can¹t take anything for granted against any team. Rutgers is a name that lives in Big Orange infamy after the Scarlet Knights pulled off a stunning 13-7 upset in 1979 at Neyland Stadium, and playing a Big East schedule that annually includes the likes of Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Miami means the men from Piscataway, N.J. aren¹t likely to be intimidated. Although the Vols will be looking to get the bitter taste of defeat out of their mouths, it¹s unlikely this cupcake will prove filling. Make no mistake, this is remedial training for a Tennessee team that looked to be in spring practice form last week against Florida. In fact, the Vols haven¹t looked particularly sharp against any opponent so far and the offense needs a shot in the arm going into a stretch that includes games against Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Miami. Although Rutgers will never be mistaken for a gridiron heavyweight, the Scarlet Knights do get their share of skill players from the talent-rich Garden State. Rutgers will no doubt be infused with energy playing a big-name team before a big crowd and the Vols can¹t let the Knights ever feel too good about the situation or they will gain the confidence to hang around. A struggle against Rutgers will do nothing to help eliminate the cloud that currently hangs over UT and it will prevent the Vols from getting work for their young players at wide receiver, running back and corner back.

Scouting Report: After horrible home losses to Villanova 37-19 and Buffalo 34-11 (and you thought Tennessee had problems) the Scarlet Knights rebounded to annihilate Army 44-0 and played Pittsburgh tough on the road before falling 23-3. Although only 2-9 last season, Rutgers is on the rise behind the NCAA¹s youngest head coach Greg Schiano, 36, a Jersey native who was hired off Miami¹s staff two years ago. Schiano came in with the intention of keeping New Jersey talent in state and he has been successful. In 2001 he put together a top 50 recruiting class and followed that with a top 30 class last season. He didn¹t have to search far to find a starting quarterback as Ryan Cubit, 6-3, 195, the son of Rutgers offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Bill Cubit, earned the job as a true freshman. But as a sophomore he has given way to senior Ted Trump (6-2, 215) who has completed 50-of-106 passes for 527 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions this season. Cubit still sees playing time in the Scarlet Knights multiple attack. Rutgers hasn¹t assembled the talent in the offensive line to be competitive against good teams to this point and that¹s reflected in its rushing totals. The Scarlet Knights are averaging just 76.5 yards per game on the ground. True freshman Markis Facyson is their leading rusher with 57 yards per game and he had a career high 129 yards vs. Army. Rutgers averages only 263 yards per contest in total offense. However the Knights are stronger on defense holding opponents to 365.5 yards total per game with only 138.5 coming on the ground. They should pose a test for Tennessee¹s surprisingly anemic rushing attack which ranks 10th in the SEC. One of Rutgers top defensive players is Shawn Seabroooks who originally signed with Tennessee before transferring back to his home state after his freshman year. Seabrooks, who plays free safety, intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown against Army. Although the Knights have been sound against the run and solid in the secondary, their D-line has only managed two sacks in four games which means Clausen should have time to find open receivers.

Summary: An angry Tennessee team could make this non-conference contest ugly, but the more pressing objective for the Vols is finding some rhythm and consistency on offense. UT¹s coaching staff also hopes to get a look at true freshmen James Banks, Jonathan Wade and Chris Hannon at receiver as well as Gerald Riggs Jr., at tailback. Antwan Stewart is another raw rookie who could work his way into the cornerback rotation with a good showing against the Knights. Eliminating mistakes, establishing a dominating ground game, improving red-zone efficiency and shoring up a suddenly suspect kicking game are also on Tennessee¹s to-do list.

Prediction: Tennessee 51, Rutgers 3


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