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Pinstripe Bowl 2013: Full Preview for Rutgers vs. Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 28:  Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish waits torun onto the field with his team before a game against the Oklahoma Sooners at Notre Dame Stadium on September 28, 2013 in South Bend, Indiana. Oklahoma defeated Notre Dame 35-21.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIDecember 28, 2013

Yankee Stadium will host the 2013 Pinstripe Bowl between the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Dec. 28, providing one of the most interesting games before the BCS matchups are underway.

"Interesting" doesn't necessarily mean this is the juiciest upcoming clash, because the Irish (8-4) have had a severe letdown this season coming off a trip to last season's BCS national title game.

Rutgers will be partaking in this bowl for the second time in three years, having won 2011's edition 27-13 over Iowa State, which was the last game coached by Greg Schiano before his move to the NFL.

In Kyle Flood's second year as Schiano's successor, he saw his team's regular-season record fall from 8-4 to a meager 6-6. If not for a 31-6 triumph over South Florida in the final game, the Scarlet Knights would not have been eligible for a bowl bid.

The winner of this showdown at the historic venue in the Bronx will end the year on a high note and set the tone for the future.

Flood weighed in on what a victory would mean after practice on Thursday, Dec. 26, per MyCentralJersey.com's Josh Newman:

I think winning always helps recruiting. I think once you turn the page on the season, you’ve turned the page. The team will be different and the offseason will be different because the team is different. Winning, whether it’s in the the regular season or the bowl season, winning never hurts your program and winning always helps recruiting.

Plenty is at stake here despite the diminished 2013 status of these programs, so let's take a look at when and where to catch the game along with a preview as to how it will play out.

Note: Team statistics are courtesy of NCAA.com. Individual defensive stats were obtained via CFBStats.com.

 

2013 Pinstripe Bowl Spread and Viewing Information
DateTime (EDT)MatchupTVLive StreamSpread
Saturday, Dec. 2612 p.m.Rutgers vs. Notre DameESPNWatch ESPNFighting Irish (-14)
Spread courtesy of Bovada

 

Blueprint for Rutgers Victory

Sep 22, 2012; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights defensive lineman Darius Hamilton (91) reacts after a play against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Rutgers defeated Arkansas 35-26. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chen
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

One thing the Scarlet Knights can hang their hats on is the ability to swarm to the football and stop opponents from running the football.

Given how suspect and turnover-prone Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees is at times, the success Rutgers has will depend heavily on continuing to build on its biggest strength, which has yielded the nation's No. 4 rush defense.

Opponents have gained less than three yards per carry on the Scarlet Knights, but only three teams have allowed more yards through the air than Rutgers (311.4 yards per game).

Rutgers is tied for 24th in sacks with 32 as a team, though, which somewhat makes up for a vulnerable secondary.

There is clear talent on that side of the ball within the front seven, particularly between linebackers Steve Longa and Kevin Snyder, along with stout defensive tackle Darius Hamilton (10 tackles for loss).

Having said that, the tone must be set on offense. The running back tandem of Paul James and Justin Goodwin (combined 14 rushing TDs) has to get going early to alleviate the burden for senior signal-caller Chas Dodd to shoulder the load.

If all of that can happen, the Scarlet Knights have a decent chance at pulling off the upset at a favorable location with regard to proximity from Piscataway.

 

Blueprint for Notre Dame Victory

PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 30:  Tommy Rees #11 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish drops back to pass against the Stanford Cardinal during the first quarter at Stanford Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Gett
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Anything involving Rees putting the ball in the air isn't usually a promising proposition. The Scarlet Knights can get after the quarterback, but Rees is facing a very favorable matchup and has the weapons to exploit Rutgers on the back end.

Tight end Troy Niklas is a matchup nightmare at 6'7" and 270 pounds. Savvy receivers TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels have made plays all season, helping Rees to a career-best 8.01 yards per attempt.

The Irish also have a backfield stocked with talent between freshman phenom Tarean Folston, gritty junior Cam McDaniel and the electrifying big-play threat George Atkinson III.

With that superior depth, they should get Rees going early and often and then wear down the Scarlet Knights late in the game by pounding the rock.

Asked how he'd call the game, head coach Brian Kelly sprinkled in some humor in poking fun at passing game coordinator Mike Denbrock:

Chances are, Kelly's previous offensive genius will shine through and allow the Irish to put enough points on the board to secure a win. As long as Notre Dame's 76th-ranked rush defense isn't gashed too severely, its outlook to win is promising.

 

Prediction: Notre Dame 27, Rutgers 17

NFL-caliber players Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt will help the Irish win in the Bronx.
NFL-caliber players Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt will help the Irish win in the Bronx.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Irish should have some trouble defending the run, but eventually Rutgers' shortcomings will shine through.

A big kicker in this game will be the Scarlet Knights' lack of discipline that has resulted in a -9 turnover margin for the season and an average of 6.75 penalties per game. Those are primary culprits behind their mediocre record.

Rees will want to end his polarizing Notre Dame career on a high note, and Kelly will ensure that happens.

Although the spread won't be covered and the game should be close through the first half, the Irish will find a way to prevail thanks to better talent, depth and a huge edge Rees has at the quarterback position over his counterpart in Dodd.

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