WVU linebacker Kyle Kayden vs. Rutgers quarterback Ryan Cubit
Although we'd like to see Kayden have a few backfield encounters with Cubit, we think that the more interesting matchup will come as kayden and Cubit try to outwit each other before the snap.
In some ways, Rutgers is similar to WVU in that they will attempt to use formations to gain an advantage over the defense. The Mountaineer D, led by Kayden, must respond to formation changes quickly and effectively.
West Virginia did a good job of this against Miami before the Hurricanes' superior talent took over. WVU must now prove that performance was not a fluke.
WVU receivers Miquelle Henderson and Mike Page vs. Rutgers defensive backs Dewayne Thompson and Tony Berry
Although Rutgers' defense isn't the second coming of Virginia Tech's, Thompson and Berry, as seniors, should provide a challenge for WVU's young pass catchers.
If West Virginia can't generate a passing attack against the Knights, though, you can put away those bowl trip plans and think about heading to Tucson for the Fiesta Bowl Basketball Classic instead.
WVU Head Coach Rich Rodriguez vs. Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano
The similarities here are obvious - young aggressive coaches trying to put their own stamp on the programs they inherited.
It should be interesting to see if either coach tries to "one-up" the other by showing who can make the gutsiest or most aggressive play calls. With both teams on the verge of postseason elimination, both coaches will likely be tempted to throw caution to the winds and empty their playbooks.
In this game however, the calmer head will probably prevail. Gadget plays have never been the solution to breaking a losing streak.
THINGS TO WATCH:
The first thing to watch will probably be apparent before the game. How is WVU's team demeanor? Do they look ready to play coming out of the tunnel and during warmups? Or is there a lot of "going through the motions"?
We can't overemphasize the importance of the team's morale. Attitudes and emotions play a key role in performance over the long road of the season, and if a team throws in the towel there aren't too many opponents they'll be able to beat.
If turnovers were ever a key to a game, they likely will be in this one. WVU and Rutgers are next to last and last, respectively, in the NCAA in turnovers committed.
The difference is in the method - Rutgers has given up a country worst 13 fumbles, while West Virginia is just one from the bottom with 15 interceptions. If either team can correct those woes, they'll have a leg up on getting a win.
Both teams also figure to blitz in this game - Rutgers, because it's their style, and WVU, because they'll be trying to rattle Cubit.
The blitzes are likely to take different forms, however. Watch for the Scarlet Knights to try to fill rushing gaps to contain Avon Cobourne, while West Virginia will attempt to overload a gap or side to get pressure on the quarterback.
In particular, watch for the Mountaineers to bring a safety or a cornerback on more than one occasion. Brian King has been very effective on the corner blitz this year, while Shawn Hackett is at his best when turned loose to go after the football.