Pinstripe Bowl Preview: Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Iowa State Cyclones

Dan Hope@Dan_HopeContributor IIIDecember 30, 2011

Pinstripe Bowl Preview: Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Iowa State Cyclones

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    This year’s Pinstripe Bowl features the Rutgers Scarlet Knights from the Big East Conference and the Iowa State Cyclones from the Big 12 Conference.

    The game will be played on Dec. 30 at 3:20 p.m. ET in Bronx, N.Y. at Yankee Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN.

    Note: Rankings used are from my national Top 25 rankings.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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    Record: 8-4 (4-3 Big East)

    Biggest win: vs Cincinnati, 20-3, Nov. 19

    Worst loss: at Connecticut, 22-40, Nov. 26

    The Scarlet Knights had a winning record in the Big East Conference this season, good enough to finish with an 8-4 record this season.

    Rutgers is tied for 47th with 245 passing yards per game, but their rushing offense’s productivity has been abysmal, ranking 115th nationally with 91.5 yards per game. The Scarlet Knights defense has been terrific this season, ranking 13th nationally in total defense.

Iowa State Cyclones

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    Record: 6-6 (3-6 Big 12)

    Biggest win: vs No. 3 Oklahoma State, 37-31 (2OT), Nov. 18

    Worst loss: vs Texas A&M, 17-33, Oct. 22

    The Iowa State Cyclones were one of the worst teams in the Big 12 Conference this season, winning just one-third of their in-conference games, but they came up with what may be the season’s biggest upset.

    On Nov. 18, with Oklahoma State ranked second nationally and making a run at an undefeated regular season and a spot in the BCS National Championship Game, the Cyclones crushed their dreams in a double-overtime thriller.

    The Cyclones only won two games against bowl-eligible teams this year (Oklahoma State and Iowa), and both games went to overtime. Aside from Oklahoma State, the Cyclones were defeated by the other six bowl-eligible teams in the Big 12.

    The Iowa State Cyclones rank 56th nationally in total offense, but their defense has struggled mightily, ranking 98th nationally in yards allowed per game.

Players to Watch

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    Rutgers WR Mohamed Sanu, Junior

    NFL Draft Grade: Round 3

    Mohamed Sanu has had a huge breakout season for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

    Sanu ranks fifth nationally with 109 receptions. Sanu has very good size at 6’2’’, has great hands and is a very good athlete.

    Sanu is Rutgers’s top offensive playmaker, and the Scarlet Knights will be relying upon him to have a big impact in the Pinstripe Bowl. Projected as a Day Two selection if he declares for the 2012 NFL Draft, this could be his final collegiate game.

    Iowa State LT Kelechi Osemele, Senior

    NFL Draft Grade: Round 2

    At 6’5’’ and nearly 350 pounds, Kelechi Osemele is a massive man. He is also one of the best offensive linemen in all of college football.

    Osemele plays left tackle for the Cyclones and was named All-Big 12 at his position in his senior season. Osemele has tremendous strength and power, and is one of the nation’s best run blockers.

    At the next level, Osemele will likely be moved inside to guard, for he lacks the athleticism to play left tackle in the National Football League. That said, his strength and power should make him a very good guard in the National Football League and a likely second-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft.

    Rutgers OLB Khaseem Greene, Junior

    2013 NFL Draft Grade: Round 4-5

    Khaseem Greene had a tremendous breakout season in his junior year. Greene is an athletic, instinctive linebacker who is tied for 15th nationally with 127 tackles this season.

    Greene also has 11 tackles for loss this season. Greene’s playmaking ability is a major reason why the Scarlet Knights defense has performed so well this season.

    Greene has already made the decision to return for his senior season, which is a smart decision on his part, for he currently projects as a Day Three selection. That said, if the Scarlet Knights are to win this game, they need a big performance from Greene.

Comparing the Two Teams

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    Common opponent: Connecticut

    Rutgers: Road loss, 22-40, Nov. 26

    Iowa State: Road win, 24-20, Sept. 16

    Wins vs bowl-eligible teams: Rutgers 3, Iowa State 2

    Losses vs non-bowl-eligible teams: Rutgers 1, Iowa State 0

    Iowa State’s rushing offense: 36th in nation, 181.2 yards per game

    Rutgers’s rushing defense: 56th in nation, 143.7 yards allowed per game

    Rutgers’s passing offense: 47th in nation, 245.0 yards per game

    Iowa State’s passing defense: 73rd in nation, 237.2 yards allowed per game

Prediction Analysis

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    While Iowa State’s record is unimpressive, they played in the second-strongest conference this year (behind the SEC), with seven of their games coming against teams with winning records. Additionally, the Cyclones showed that they can beat anybody when they upset Oklahoma State while the Cowboys were in position to play for a national championship.

    The Scarlet Knights have a very good defense and a better record than Iowa State, but their offense is very one-dimensional, with Mohamed Sanu being their only big playmaker.

    The Cyclones have played a much stronger schedule, and as a result, I expect them to be better prepared for this game and be able to come away with a victory.

    Final Score Prediction: Iowa State 23, Rutgers 16