Rutgers vs. South Florida Football: What to Expect in Thursday's Big East Clash

Kevin McGuire@KevinOnCFBAnalyst IISeptember 13, 2012

B.J. Daniels and South Florida host Rutgers in a key Big East game Thursday night.
B.J. Daniels and South Florida host Rutgers in a key Big East game Thursday night.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Two schools looking to claim their first Big East football championship will square off Thursday night, hoping to get the inside track to a potential BCS bid. Rutgers (2-0) visits South Florida (2-0) for a key Big East matchup in front of a televised national audience.

South Florida is coming off a wild victory on the road at Nevada. Down 21-6 after the first quarter, the Bulls needed 12 fourth-quarter points to edge the Wolfpack 32-31.

Quarterback B.J. Daniels led the way with 363 passing yards and three touchdowns, highlighted by a 56-yard touchdown pass to Andre Davis with 38 seconds remaining in the game. The two Bulls have developed into a lethal deep threat, connecting on a 51-yard touchdown earlier in the game.

South Florida will give the Rutgers defense its biggest test yet if it can keep that kind of offense going. The Scarlet Knights are coming off a shutout home win against Howard last week. Rutgers limited the FCS school to 149 total yards of offense.

Rutgers opened the season with a road win at Tulane in New Orleans, and it travels to Arkansas for its first trip to SEC territory since winning at Vanderbilt in 2004.

Of course, Rutgers cannot afford to look past South Florida. With the Big East being a virtual toss-up in recent years, Rutgers knows every game carries a little more importance. The Scarlet Knights need to start well in conference play before the second half of their schedule with games at Cincinnati and Louisville in November.

Rutgers sophomore quarterback Gary Nova has completed just 55.3 percent of his passes through two games for 288 yards. He has been intercepted twice, while tossing three touchdowns, including two last week against Howard. Nova is one of the young offensive players to watch for Rutgers.

Sophomore running back Jawan Jamison leads the Big East in rushing with 222 yards through the first two weeks.

South Florida's quarterback situation is much more familiar to college football and Big East fans.

B.J. Daniels is in his fifth year at South Florida. Although it is a small sample size this season, he has shown an increase in quarterback production with a higher accuracy percentage and yards per attempt from his 2011 totals. He has also thrown for six touchdowns, putting him just eight touchdown passes away from a career high for a season (14 in 2009). He has been through his ups and downs, but is optimistic that this year can have a different ending.

Rutgers will look to slow down South Florida's potent offense with some of the Big East's leading defensive players through two weeks. The linebacker tandem of senior Khaseem Greene and junior Jamal Merrell are among the top three in the conference in tackles. Greene's 24 total tackles lead the Big East and Merrell's 21 are third most.

South Florida has a linebacker to keep an eye on. Junior Devekeyan Lattimore is fourth in the Big East with 19 total tackles, including 11 solo tackles.

What to Expect: As is generally the case when these two schools play, viewers may not want to expect pretty football. Rutgers is led by young offensive players and will rely on its defense. South Florida has shown big-play ability, but will be tested by Rutgers from start to finish. This has the makings for a slugfest, but with the Bulls playing at home and players capable of breaking a big play at the right time, give the home team a slight edge in this Big East matchup.


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Kevin McGuire is the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast, managing editor of Nittany Lions Den and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow him on TwitterFacebook and Google+.