Football Preview Weekish: Rutgers

SHOT THROUGH THE HEART / AND YOU'RE TOO LATE / YOU GIVE LOVE A BAD NAME

I play my part / And you play your games / RU give love a bad name

As part of TheUConnBlog’s 2009 football Season Preview Week, we’re rolling out the position primers and opponent capsules. Today, we look at the Huskies’ eighth opponent: the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

Rutgers should die in a fire.

The end.

Opponent: Rutgers

Date/site of game: Oct. 31, Rentschler Field

Time/TV of game: TBA

Coach: Greg Schiano (9th season, 46-51)

Team site: http://www.scarletknights.com/football/index.asp

Fan forum: The Birthplace; and more unofficially, here (NSFW, language/stereotypical hilarity)

2008 record: 8-5 (5-2 Big East, tied for second; beat NC State 29-23 in the PapaJohns.com Bowl)

Notable wins: 54-34 at Pittsburgh (Oct. 25), 49-16 at South Florida (Nov. 15), 6-4 vs. Princeton (Nov. 6, 1869 – it still holds up)

Notable losses: 24-7 vs. Fresno State (Sept. 1); 23-21 at Navy (Sept. 20)

All-time series: 19-9, Rutgers

Last game in series: Rutgers 12, UConn 10 (Oct. 18, 2008 at Piscataway, N.J.)

Returning starters (offense): 7

Key players (offense): RB Kordell Young (142 rush, 554 yds, 5 TD); WR Tim Brown (27 rec, 565 yds, 6 TD), LT Anthony Davis (6-foot-6, 325 lbs)

Returning starters (defense): 6

Key players (defense): LB Ryan D’Imperio (93 tkl, 5.5 sacks, 1 INT); CB Devin McCourty (57 tkl, 1.5 for loss, 1 INT), DE George Johnson (39 tkl, 8 for loss, 2 sacks)

2009 outlook in 50 words or less: I’m not ready to live in a world where Rutgers is a favorite to win a conference title. This looks a lot like a slightly-more-talented version of the last two UConn teams – solid RB and OL, good D and a huge hole at quarterback. I think that’s a compliment.

The Huskies win if: There is a God.

The Boneyard melts down if: Edsall gets outcoached by Schiano for the second straight year. Witness the UConn coach’s complete refusal to trust Zach Frazer until the Huskies were down 9 points late in the fourth quarter.

Bottom line: It pains me to write this. It does. Rutgers appears to be really decent. One might say, "good."

Here are the facts: Rutgers won its final seven games and finished 8-2 after a disastrous 0-3 start. Only one of those wins – the Ciaravino Special - were arguably undeserved; the other five regular-season wins were all by 18 points or more, and they outgained by 80 yards NC State in the bowl game.

I don’t buy into the "last year’s momentum carries over" theory as much as I buy the "Rutgers was a good team that got off to a bad start" theory. After getting thoroughly beaten by Fresno State and North Carolina, they were a play away from a win against Navy (lost by 2), West Virginia (lost by 7) and Cincinnati (lost by 3), all of which were on the road. Keep that in mind.

Much has been made of Rutgers’ cupcake schedule, and rightly so. Out of conference, the Scarlet Knights play Howard, FIU, Texas Southern and Army, which is deserving of all the ridicule and embarrassment that we can muster.

But if you want a real reason to be worried (and angry at John Marianatto’s henchmen in Providence), look at RU’s Big East schedule:

Away: Louisville, Syracuse, UConn
Home: The "good" teams

Granted, I think better of the Huskies than most and give UConn a 50-50 shot at home. But really? Did disgraced former senator Bob Torricelli draw up that schedule? The Scarlet Knights probably win the conference if they go 3-1 at home against the other four teams in the perceived upper tier.

Now, saying that and doing that are totally different. RU’s quarterback situation would make me long for the days of Matt Bonislawski and D.J. Hernandez fighting it out over who could throw the next interception against Indiana. If anything keeps the Scarlet Knights from a January bowl game (a bowl game not in Canada, anyway), it’ll be the failures of Dom Natale (3-for-8 for 36 yards in 5 appearances in ’08), Jabu Lovelace (0-for-3 in 2 apperances) or freshman Tom Savage (a four-star prospect who was the eighth-best QB out of high school this year.

Beyond that, the Scarlet Knights have playmakers at RB, WR and along the defensive front seven. The offensive line is rated the best in the conference by Athlon and Phil Steele. There’s a lot to like from this team, as long as you’re not the type of person who silently flips off cars with a big red ‘R’ on the back window driving down Route 287 southbound.

So yes, Rutgers could win the Big East. However, this being the Big East, keep in mind Rutgers is no juggernaut, and I think UConn will be competitive. But in order to win on Halloween night, they’re going to need the breaks they didn’t get last year.

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