Rutgers Scarlet Knights Football: 5 Things to Look for This Week vs. Cincinnati

David AbelContributor IIINovember 18, 2011

Rutgers Scarlet Knights Football: 5 Things to Look for This Week vs. Cincinnati

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    In just 24 hours, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights football team will play their biggest game of the season.

    A win and they are tied atop the backed-up Big East.

    A loss and, well... kiss the Big East and BCS hopes goodbye.

    The game Saturday afternoon has major implications for many teams in the Big East. For Rutgers, it is even bigger. They will go up against a team with more talent and skill, but lacking a starting quarterback.

    This week there are five things to look for—and here they are...

Can Special Teams Continue to Make Key Plays?

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    Can Rutgers’ special teams keeping making plays to win games?

    In multiple weeks this year, kicker San San Te has missed field goals at opportune times. On the flip side, in multiple weeks, kicker San San Te has made field goals that have won Rutgers the game.

    The kicking game is key this week for the Scarlet Knights. Even without quarterback Zach Collaros, the Bearcats offense is still potent and can score at will. Points will be a necessity this week, and missing field goals and extra points could prove costly.

    Furthermore, if you recall: The Scarlet Knights took a kickoff back to the house versus USF. On the year, sophomore Jeremy Deering is averaging 33.1 yards per kick return, and these yards will be crucial in setting up the Rutgers offense with good field position.

    Lastly, in four games this year, punter Justin Doerner has averaged 40+ yards in punting average. Again, this will be significant in pinning back that Cincinnati offense and making them drive the length of the field.

    Coaches always say special teams is one-third of the game, and Saturday's game will prove that. If Rutgers special teams unit(s) take any plays off, it could change the game entirely

Can the Running Game Keep Rolling?

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    In last week’s game against Army, the Scarlet Knights rushed for over 100 total yards for only the fifth time this year. Saturday’s task will be much harder than last week's in Yankee Stadium.

    Cincinnati’s defense is ranked second in the country in rush yards allowed per game, only allowing 80. The only team better than that? Well, you probably guessed it: Alabama.

    On the year, RU’s top two rushers have averaged only 3.3 (Jawan Jamison) and 2.6 (Savon Huggins) yards per carry, respectively. After that, the attempts and yards get more and more sparse, so their stats don’t even need to be recorded.

    The fact that Cincinnati is so stiff against the run will prove tough for a Rutgers rushing attack that has been inconsistent on the ground. If Cincinnati holds Rutgers on multiple occasions, it will make the Knights one dimensional and force them to frequently throw the ball. Thus, Cincinnati will be able to tee off on Dodd and the rest of Rutgers offense.

    This week will be another test to see how far this rushing game has progressed (or regressed).

     

Can Chas Dodd Continue to Keep Them in Ball Games?

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    Chas Dodd has come a long way from his first games as a freshman. The sophomore quarterback seems more comfortable in the offense and has been able to move the ball very effectively at times.

    As mentioned before, the Cincinnati defense is very, very stout against the rush. That being said, as good as their rush defense is, their pass defense is woeful, to say the least. After nine games, the Bearcats pass defense is ranked 115th in the country, giving up 287 yards per game and allowing teams to throw all over the yard against them.

    Dodd will most likely have to shoulder a major load for the offense considering the rushing attack will be limited. In his last two games (since returning as starter), Dodd has completed at least 63% of his passes and has two quarterback ratings over 130.0.

    Multiple factors will make or break this week’s passing game.

    For one, Dodd has to hold on to the football. He has thrown as many picks as touchdowns since returning as starter. The more opportunities you give this Cincy offense, the more chances they have to score.

    Secondly, Dodd has to be able to continue hitting Mohamed Sanu on a consistent basis. With the Cincy pass defense as poor as it is, Sanu should add another big game to his resume. And if Sanu has a big game, the defense should key on him, allowing other players to get open and make some big plays.

    Overall, I feel Dodd and the passing attack is the key to the game. If he plays smartly, efficiently and effectively, the sky is the limit for this offense. Let’s just see if that’s how it unfolds…

     

Can the Rutgers Defense Continously Stop the Cincinnati Offense?

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    Offensively, the Bearcats are ranked 15th in points (37.1), 39th in total yards (423) and 31st in rushing yards (193.6) per game.

    Last week against WVU, they tallied 404 yards of total offense even with Zach Collaros missing most of the game. Sophomore Munchie Legaux was able to be consistent with the passing game, while leading a rushing attack that garnered almost 200 yards.

    The Scarlet Knights’ defense will be tested heavily this week. Cincinnati has a nice, balanced attack and should cause some issues with their spread style.

    Remember against the Mountaineers, the Cincy defense faltered multiple times, giving WVU points and the game. If the same holds true this week, the team will once again see themselves giving up point after point after point.

    All year I’ve been saying this Rutgers unit is solid and has quite frankly carried the team. Saturday’s game will really prove how hungry this defense really is. Legaux has little experience, and if Greg Schiano is the defensive genius he’s supposed to be, I think this kid will get shut down and ultimately shut out.

    Consistency, tackling and making big plays are keys to the game for these guys.

Can Schiano Win the Big One?

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    A few weeks ago, Schiano has his chance to prove critics wrong and beat the Mountaineers in Piscataway. To no avail.

    This weekend, Schiano has a chance at redemption and to put his team into first place.

    Schiano is a .500 coach and at many times, his team has played that way. Saturday’s game can make or break this season in terms of BCS and national recognition. Schiano must have this team fired up and focused if they want to stop this very good Cincinnati team.

    For what it’s worth, Cincinnati has to travel (they have a loss on the road this season), Cincinnati has lost their starting quarterback and they come off a loss to WVU.

    This has all the makings for a big win, and I think Rutgers can pull it out, so long as Schiano doesn’t blow it for them.

Prediction

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    I’ve said all I’ve had to say looking forward to this game.

    I can see either team winning this game and either team taking the reins of a wide-open Big East.

    It will be interesting to see how RU responds considering it will be the biggest game of this season and the biggest game in awhile.

    After it is all said and done (the optimist that I am), I see the Scarlet Knights beating the Bearcats.

     

    Score: Rutgers 24, Cincinnati 17