Rutgers scribe: An eye-opening WSU prediction

WITH WASHINGTON STATE vs. Rutgers on tap for Saturday, I went to one of the top authorities on Scarlet Knights football: Star-Ledger and reporter Dan Duggan. The veteran scribe provided some great insights to CF.C on Rutgers' offense and defense, and made a prediction for Saturday's game WSU fans will be interested to read.

When WSU faces Rutgers (12:30 p.m. Pacific, ESPNU) the Scarlet Knights will come in having demolished Norfolk State 63-13. The Cougs, on the other hand, suffered an embarrassing loss to Portland State. That doesn't matter, says Duggan, who sees WSU going into Piscataway and stealing one from Rutgers.

WSU is a two-point underdog according to most Las Vegas betting lines. But Duggan tells CF.C that he sees the Cougars controlling the tempo, getting the Air Raid cranked up leaving the Garden State with a victory.

CF.C: How is Rutgers looking at this game? WSU lost to Portland State and it was certainly a shock to the system for Cougar Nation. Is Rutgers confident heading into this one?

Duggan: I think Rutgers is confident and I’m sure they took note of the loss to Portland State. But I think the veterans are smart enough to realize this won’t be a cakewalk. Rutgers’ secondary has been ravaged by off-field issues — a starting cornerback, the starting free safety and two other veteran corners got kicked off the team on Saturday after they got arrested. I think the players understand how much of a challenge the Washington State offense will pose.

CF.C: WSU’s secondary is young, but QB Chris Laviano doesn’t have much experience. Do you expect Rutgers to attack through the air and try or pound the run?

Duggan: Rutgers always wants to establish the run first. I think the perfect formula for Rutgers would be the one it used in last season’s matchup. Paul James rushed for 173 yards and three touchdowns, while Gary Nova was able to hit a few big plays to throw for 281 yards. James has more help this season, as sophomore Josh Hicks led the way with 18 carries for 118 yards and two touchdowns in the opener. Washington State fans will remember receiver Leonte Carroo, who had six catches for 151 yards and a TD (on the first play from scrimmage) in last year’s game. He picked up where he left off with three catches for 129 yards and three TDs in the opener. Expect Laviano to look for Carroo early and often.

CF.C: On the other side, Rutgers’ secondary is also inexperienced. And with WSU’s Air Raid offense, that could scream trouble for the Scarlet Knights. You think WSU can have some success?

Duggan: I’d be stunned if Washington State doesn’t post huge passing numbers in this game. Rutgers has a true freshman and a redshirt freshman starting at corner. They’re backed up by two true freshmen. There’s some experience at safety, but it’s still going to be a major challenge. The key for Rutgers defensively will be generating pressure from the front seven. Rutgers’ inexperienced defensive backs had communication breakdowns against Norfolk State’s passing attack. If Luke Falk has time in the pocket, he’ll pick this secondary apart.

CF.C: Who is the top offensive player WSU fans might not know about that will turn their heads this Saturday?

Duggan: I’ll go with Hicks. James was the workhorse when these teams met last year, but he suffered a torn ACL in the fourth game of the season. Hicks emerged late, averaging 6.6 yards per carry in the final four games, including a 202-yard day in the bowl win over North Carolina. The 5-foot-10, 215-pounder Is a powerful runner and he should see a heavy workload on Saturday.

CF.C: Who’s the top defensive player Coug fans don’t know about?

Duggan: Well, Rutgers defense probably didn’t make much of an impression after giving up 38 points to Wazzu last season. Coug fans may remember Kemoko Turay, who had two sacks in last season’s matchup. He’s an athletic freak at defensive end and he figures to spend a lot of time in the Wazzu backfield. I’d also mention defensive tackle Julian Pinnix-Odrick, who was a disruptive presence in the opener while filling in for injured star Darius Hamilton. Again, Rutgers needs the guys up front to generate pressure.

CF.C: What’s your prediction for Saturday’s contest, who comes out on top?

Duggan: This prediction will probably be more popular with your audience than the readers, but I’m going to go with Washington State 41, Rutgers 34. I just don’t think Rutgers will be able to stop Washington State and I’m not sold on Laviano’s ability to win a shootout.

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