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.
|Date||Time (EDT)||Matchup||TV||Live Stream||Spread|
|Saturday, Dec. 26||12 p.m.||Rutgers vs. Notre Dame||ESPN||Watch ESPN||Fighting Irish (-14)|
Spread courtesy of Bovada
Blueprint for Rutgers Victory
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.
How close will the game's outcome be to the spread?
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
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:
#NotreDame HC Brian Kelly on Pinstripe Bowl play-calling: "I'm going to call the good plays, and Mike Denbrock will call the bad plays."— Brian Hamilton (@ChiTribHamilton) December 21, 2013
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
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.