Rutgers Football: 3 Burning Questions For the Scarlet Knights Against USF
Rutgers is coming off a horribly disappointing loss at Pittsburgh, getting trounced 41-21, with one of their scores coming in garbage time and trailing just 21-14 at the half.
Meanwhile, USF is just coming off of a huge 30-38 upset win over Cincinnati, their first victory in three Big East games this season.
Rutgers currently sits at 4-3, with a 1-1 record in conference play. USF also has a record of 4-3, but is just 1-2 in conference play.
This is a pivotal make or break game for both teams. If Rutgers loses here, a Bowl game for the Knights is no longer a given, as they still have to face off against Louisville, Syracuse and West Virginia in 2010.
If USF loses here, their best hope would be for a no-name Bowl, as they would drop to 1-3 in conference play and would have to win out to even have a shot at a postseason birth.
With that being said, let us take a look at the biggest questions looming for RU heading into this game at Raymond James Stadium.
Is The Reshuffling Of The O-Line Going To Spark This Offense?
Although RU has a winning record, they are yet to score over 31 points as they enter the critical part of the season.
The Rutgers O-line has given up a putrid 33 sacks in seven games, and has allowed at least six sacks in the past three games.
Fellow featured columnist Josh Rosenberg already did a good job touching on this issue, but here is just a quick summary of the changes.
Art Frost is being moves from right tackle to left guard, Desmond Wynn is moving from left guard to right guard and Devon Watkins will move to right tackle.
Desmond Stapleton will stay at left tackle while Howard Barbieri will remain at center, with Caleb Ruch and Antwan Lowery getting demoted to backups at the guard positions.
Frost was absolutely terrible at tackle, and while some of his fellow linemen were not exactly playing like All-Americans, Frost was by far the worst.
This is why this move will be the most critical as far as the offense line is concerned from here on out.
Rutgers simply cannot allow their quarterback to get hit at this frequency if they want to end 2010 on a respectable note.
Did The Loss At Pittsburgh Re-Ignite A Quarterback Controversy?
Quarterback Chas Dodd overcame the O-line deficiency for a couple games, leading RU to two magnificent come from behind victories against UConn and Army.
Still, a quarterback with Dodd’s size (6’0'', 197 pounds) cannot be expected to get bull rushed week in and week out and continue to win games.
He finally could not do it without the help from the big guys up front against Pittsburgh, going just 8-for-19 for 62 yards and an interception.
This led to Tom Savage coming in for the final drive in the fourth quarter, going 2-for-3 for 46 yards and connecting wit Mark Harrison for a 27-yard touchdown.
Now, keep three things in mind here before jumping to conclusions. Dodd seemed to be getting hit about 80 percent of the time in this one; the actual statistic here is irrelevant.
He just barely had anytime to throw, and the Pitt secondary also played very well on the few occasions Dodd was able to air it out.
When Savage came in, Pitt was sitting very comfortably with a 41-14 lead and had taken the foot off the gas a long time ago.
Finally, Dodd was named the starter against USF on Monday November 1. While there is no evidence that Tom Savage will never be a competent quarterback again, it would be a shame to see Dodd get benched due to team inefficiencies that are beyond his control.
Nevertheless, if RU falters against USF, there is a strong possibility Savage can start again in the near future.
Will RU Have USF’s Number Again?
In the past three seasons, RU has defeated USF. In the past two, it has been in dominant fashion.
Last year, RU pitched an impressive 31-0 shut out at home. In 2008, Mike Teel torched USF for four scores, including a rare rushing TD in a 49-16 blowout.
And what Rutgers fan can forget about 2007’s affair? This is the year that RU defeated a USF team ranked second in the nation. Running back Ray Rice was the hero in this one, racking up 189 yards on 39 carries.
Despite their recent history against the Knights, the Bulls should not be taken lightly after beating Cincinnati. While this is not the Bearcats team of seasons past, they still possess a number of formidable weapons on both sides of the ball.
USF quarterback BJ Daniels has had his struggles this season, but appears to have finally hit his stride. Against Cincy, he has exceptionally accurate, going 13-for-16 for 286 yards and two touchdowns.
Daniels also added two touchdowns on the ground, tucking the ball and running for 35 yards on nine carries.
Head coach Greg Schiano said he is aware of Daniels’ ability, referring to him as a “Michael Vick like" player recently.
Will Daniels keep the ball rolling at home against the Knights? Or will USF falter against their biggest divisional Achilles heel?
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