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Homecoming: A UConn-Rutgers preview

We all could use a good exuberant jumping right now.

We all could use a good exuberant jumping right now.

I'd argue that Saturday's game against Rutgers is UConn's true homecoming. The campus is united as never before in the wake of the Jasper Howard tragedy, more and more people should be in their seats at the Rent by 11:30 for ceremonies honoring Jasper.

On the field, come on: it's Rutgers - the one team who could fairly be called a rival for UConn's football program. And the team is reeling from two excruciating losses in three weeks which turned the Huskies into Big East also-rans. If there was ever a program that could use a therapeutic win, it's UConn.

It all adds up to what should be an emotionally-charged atmosphere as both teams go after a crucial win for bowl purposes. Of course, I wouldn't miss this game for the world. I'm in Storrs now, as I write this on a computer paid for by the state of Connecticut. Hopefully this Rutgers game goes better than last year's. I'd only be half-lying if I said my superstition was the reason there was no Rutgers Hate Week.

An abbreviated preview lies below the jump.

The game: Rutgers (5-2, 1-0 MEAC) at UConn (4-3, 1-2 Big East)

The place: The Runway, E. Hartford

The time: Noon

The media: MyTV9, SNY, or wherever you get your Big East Game of the Week (TV), WTIC 1080-AM, WHUS 91.7 FM (radio)

The Vegas favorite: UConn, by 7.5.

Series history: Rutgers leads, 19-9, with most of those games coming when UConn was a I-AA team. Edsall is 4-3 against the Scarlet Knights.

Last meeting: Rutgers 12, UConn 10 (October 18, 2008 at Rutgers Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.)

Much like the North Carolina game this year, UConn blew it with turnovers, missed field goals and an inexplicable, inexcusable safety. Tony Ciaravino's field goal attempt with a minute to play bounced off the upright to give RU the first win in its season-ending seven-game streak.

Our detailed, thorough report on that game did not win the Pulitzer Prize, though I'm told we were the favorites.

The Scarlet Knights, in a historical sense: Think of the most inept thing you can. For our purposes, we'll just call this incredibly inept thing "Rutgers football". Now imagine that "Rutgers football" was awful for 130 years, struggling to accomplish even the simplest . Imagine that this inept thing, "Rutgers football," nevertheless is located in one of the best places to go to find people who aren't inept at somthing.

Now imagine that this inept thing, "Rutgers football," suddenly begins to capitalize. One year, they're no longer inept, the next year, "Rutgers football" is suddenly a top 25 thing. And now, "Rutgers football" is just a solidly ept thing.

I don't want to blow your mind, but using the power of metaphor, I've almost perfectly described Rutgers football history. And I did it implicitly. Yeah, I'm good. Unlike Rutgers.

Notable Alumni: Paul Robeson is the greatest football player to ever come out of Rutgers, which is fitting because he was playing during World War I. Lately, you might have heard of Ray Rice, who is tearing it up for the Baltimore Ravens.

Other notable alumni include Nobel economics laureate Milton Friedman (free market in the house what what) and Sopranos star James Gandolfini. Guess which one Rutgers fans associate more with.

Check out the game notes: Here for UConn; here for Rutgers.

Preview Weekish Capsule: Here’s everything else we thought you needed to know about the Scarlet Knights in August. Man, have we gotten a lot of mileage out of that Jovi picture, or what?

Also, I think Rutgers Hate Week holds up fairly well for comedic purposes. I find that my best work is when I try to amuse myself and nobody else.

What Changed Since Then: The O-line is terrible, according to our Rutgers liason on the blog earlier this week. Which means Kordell Young and Joe Martinek can't do what they need to do. That puts all of the weight on the quarterback. Tom Savage, a freshman, emerged after the hilariously predictable failures of Dom Natale and Jabu Lovelace early on this season.

The "Rutgers as Big East favorite" hype died down about 1.5 quarters into the season, as Cincinnati rolled to a 24-point second quarter in Piscataway. Since then, Rutgers has beaten a run of teams that range from unforunately bad (Maryland, Army) and downright embarrassing (Texas Southern, Howard). The Scarlet Knights are an unknown quantity as a result, since they've lost both games against not-awful I-A teams.

Media matters:

  • The Courant is all about coming home for the first time after tragedy.
  • ESPN's Brian Bennett brings the big news that Scott Lutrus is cleared to play. He also brings up a point that seems so obvious now, in re: UConn-Rutgers being a rivalry. The two teams have bunches of players from New Jersey. Which just proves that my state is awesome.
  • Phil Steele's evil world-dominating robots have UConn winning across the board, likely in a close game.
  • The Daily Campus preview does very little Rutgers-bashing. For shame, guys. College papers are the exact right forum for mindless opponent mockery. Or occasional-posting team-specific blogs, I guess.
  • Finally, from the opposition, the Star-Ledger tells the story of Rutgers star receiver Tim Brown, a longtime friend of Jasper Howard. Just another reason why the Rent will be filled with emotion.

A really brief, half-assed game preview:

Not a lot of time to write with specifics, but just a few things to watch:

Cody Endres vs. the Rutgers defense - the key matchup in the game. Is Endres for real? Is he improving? If the answer is yes to both, UConn wins by two touchdowns. You can pencil in Dixon and Todman for 100-150 yards and a touchdown or two no matter what happens. If RU forces Endres into mistakes, they have an excellent chance.

Tom Savage vs. UConn defense - Of course, this matchup is important too. If Savage can take advantage of UConn's depleted secondary early, that should open running lanes for Kordell Young and Joe Martinek. I could see Savage having a breakout game after a respectable effort against Pitt. I think he'll have to to give RU a chance of winning.

The crowd vs. Rutgers - Will the crowd be out of it because of the solemnity of the pregame ceremonies? Will they be inspired to be loud and make Rutgers' life hell? I hope so.

Besides that, let's speak in generalities. I think the following three things: the Rutgers defense is slightly better than the UConn offense; the UConn defense is better than the Rutgers offense; and UConn's kicking game has been a serious weak point. Despite Rutgers being totally lame, I could see this game going either way.

But the important thing to remember is this: Rutgers ne passeront pas.

UConn 27, Rutgers 19