Welcome back to our regular feature Friends With Bennies, where we sit down with opposing bloggers to talk about their team. Today it’s John from SBN’s Rutgers blog On The Banks.
TheUConnBlog: How’s life under Kyle Flood? Are you happy with him as Schiano’s long-term replacement?
On The Banks: Call me in 2014. I think he was an ideal fit for this year - Greg Schiano had gone as far as he could go with discipline and micromanagement, and Kyle Flood’s player-friendly approach has often led to short term gains for other teams.
Of course, a lot of those have led to long-term decline. Think someone like Larry Coker at Miami. Fortunately, there’s a lot of talent to work with in the short term. Schiano’s recruiting really went into overdrive the past few years. They’re playing looser, which is mostly good, but penalties have been a big issue so far.
TUB: Quarterback Gary Nova has had a great year so far, what’s the biggest factor in that and what’s UConn’s best chance of disrupting him?
OTB: It’s a lot of things. The pass protection is great, Rutgers has a running game again, and there’s a ton of talent at receiver. Key too has been significant improvement from Nova from his freshman year. He’s making much better decisions - turnovers and forcing the ball were a big problem last year. His accuracy and touch is scary good.
Hypothetically, if UConn can shut down the running game and make Rutgers one-dimensional, that would put a lot more pressure on him.
TUB: Statistically, UConn and Rutgers have two of the more impressive defenses in the nation. What has been the key to the Scarlet Knight’s success and who are the top playmakers UConn fans should be on the lookout for?
OTB: Rutgers is really stout down the middle, with the strength of the defense at DT and all three LB spots. Scott Vallone at DT is the guy who makes everything happen with consistent pressure up front, but there’s somewhat of a question mark now with RU’s nose tackle being out for the year.
Fortunately, a few other DL are back this week after missing the first month. The LBs have been great. Khaseem Greene is the headline guy (he’s good, but relatively overrated), but the other guys are really good too.
Duron Harmon has been strong at safety. CB Logan Ryan has been burned a bit so far after a great 2011. Hope he’s not turning into Darius Butler!
TUB: How much is UConn’s 40-22 win over Rutgers last year going to be a mental factor? Rutgers has been saying all week that it isn’t an issue, but UConn’s win did deny the Scarlet Knights a share of the Big East title.
OTB: How can it not be? For Rutgers, if it keeps them from looking past this game, then that’s a victory. That was one of the worst losses of Greg Schiano’s tenure. It needs to be a motivator without getting fixated on this. Rutgers just needs to focus on playing their game and executing.
TUB: Give us your prediction for this game.
OTB: Rutgers 27-13.
Yeah, UConn has always played Rutgers tough in the past, but I think the Pasqualoni/DeLeone combination is terrible and completely in over their heads, and don’t respect UConn’s OL or passing game very much. They have an experienced defense, but not a lot of depth, so injuries are starting to be an issue. A bad offense will at time grind any decent defense into dust without any support in sustaining drives or field position. If they go down big early, it’s probably over.