Bobby Deren and Robert Sellers ScarletNation.com Senior Writer
Rutgers returns to familiar territory this weekend when the Scarlet
Knights take on Houston in an AAC matchup. The visiting team dropped
from the unbeaten ranks last week with a tight, high-scoring loss to
BYU (47-46). Which team has the edge? We went to our resident
experts - Bobby Deren and Robert Sellers - for their insights!
lit up the scoreboard last weekend with a 46-point outburst
against BYU. Rutgers, on the other hand, took a step back
scoring only 10 points in its last contest against
Louisville. The absence of starting tailback Paul James has
hindered the Rutgers offense. Without James in the lineup,
Rutgers becomes more reliant on the pass and less effective
in the running game. Houston has a more balanced attack,
leaning on a running game which features Kenneth Farrow and
Ryan Jackson. Rutgers has also had some bumps and bruises to
its wide receiving corps so the advantage in this one swings
more potent offense?
Houston gets the nod on this one. Although it has not been
quite as prolific as in the Case Keenum era, the Cougars'
offense is still predicated on running as many plays as
possible as quickly as possible. Freshman quarterback John
O'Korn has continued to improve throughout the season. he
makes big plays but will still show some freshman mistakes
from time to time. The receiving group is much improved over
last season helping give the freshman many options. The
Cougars have scored in every quarter of every game this
season and has the number one scoring offense in the
Gary Nova. Nova was pretty solid this season up until last
game? against Louisville when he threw four
interceptions. Nova has had an up and down career at
Rutgers, raising the question 'which Nova will show up this
week?' It is a question Rutgers fans have asked on more than
one occasion. Houston's pass defense is among the worst in
the nation and if Nova is on point, he could pile up the
points for the Scarlet Knights. However, Rutgers fans have
seen Nova falter in games where RU was the favorite. As it
has been the whole season, Nova's performance could mean the
difference between victory and defeat.
Who is the
Offensive 'X Factor,' and why?
the Cougars, they have had different receivers step up each
game but the most consistent for them has been sophomore
Deontay Greenberry who has seen a huge step forward in his
production with a move to the inside this season after
playing outside all season as a freshman. Junior Daniel
Spencer has had a couple very big games for Houston,
including last week against BYU where he had seven catches
for 186 yards and a score but Greenberry is averaging over
eight catches a game for just over 112 yards a game.
was a long first half of the season for the Rutgers defense
as it surrendered more than 50 points on two occasions.
Houston's defense was victimized by BYU last week and
currently has one of the worst pass defenses in the FBS
(ranked 117th). Rutgers has surrendered more points this
season, but the Scarlet Knights have also faced much tougher
competition. Starting two freshman cornerbacks will be a
challenge for the RU defense against a high-powered attack
of Houston. However, the Houston defense may also find
itself on its heels against Rutgers' passing attack. Both
defenses have their share of flaws so I'll call this one a
has the better defense?
category to me is a very close one for this match-up.
Rutgers looks to have done a very good job, short of the two
road overtime games, in holding opponents to low scoring
outputs. With that being said the Cougars have been very
successful at creating turnovers on defense. So much so,
they are leading the nation with a +14 turnover margin and
with 21 forced turnovers. They have their share of weak
spots but have done a good job this season under first year
defensive coordinator David Gibbs in bending but not
Deering. Rutgers' starting free safety will need to play
bigger against the spread attack of Houston. The Scarlet
Knights will be starting two freshman cornerbacks, which
will present a more pressing need for the RU safeties to
pick up their play. In his first year as a defensive
starter, Deering has not made much of an impact. This week,
a big game out of Deering could go a long way for the RU
defense. Deering has been backed up by Tejay Johnson this
season, who has proven to be rather ineffective. The RU
secondary has struggled all season and Deering could play a
big part in alleviating those struggles.
Who is the
defensive 'X Factor,' and why?
one is a little easier to pick than on the offensive side of
the ball. Junior middle linebacker Derrick Mathews has
started every game since his freshman season and has
averaged over 100 tackles each year, but this year now that
he has moved to the middle he has stepped his game up to a
new level. He has averages just over 10 tackles a game this
season but may have had his best game of his standout career
last week against BYU in which he recorded four
tackles-for-loss, including three sacks (one that was a
safety). He also had a 29 yard pick-six early in the game
that gave Houston their first lead of the game.
freshman punt/kick returner Janarion Grant gives Rutgers an
advantage as he is very dangerous whenever he touches the
football. Louisville opted for all short kicks last week to
minimize Grant's effectiveness. Rutgers punt/kick block
continues to be one of the best in the country, although its
kicking game has been very lackluster through the first half
of the season. Nick Marsh has been solid punting the
football for RU but is still not playing at the level of
Houston punter Richie Leone. Rutgers' big-play ability on
special teams has been a major plus again this season and
that big-play ability pushes RU just past Houston in this
Who has the
edge on special teams?
am thinking Rutgers holds the edge on this one but only
barely. Richie Leone handles all the kicking for the Cougars
punts, field goals, PATs and kick-offs. As a punter he is
one of the top in the nation and has a future on Sundays
doing it. His field goal kicking has been very good at times
(making five against Temple in week two) and at times has
struggled (missing two last week against BYU. Rutgers has a
slightly better return game but true freshman Demarcus Ayers
for the Cougars has gotten better each week, breaking loose
for his first touchdown of the season last week against BYU.
This one may be too close to call but maybe a slight edge to
teams have the capability of covering a lot of ground in a
hurry. However, it might not come down who has the better
offense at the end of the game. Both of these offenses will
be facing defenses that have not performed well against the
pass this season. Rutgers has not only struggled defending
the pass, but its defense has also faltered late in games
this season. This one may come down to a matter of which
defense has the capability of holding up longer. Given
Rutgers' fourth quarter struggles this season, the slight
nod goes to Houston.
drives the length of the field?
I see this one as a close comparison. Both of these teams
have the ability to put points up in bunches. With Houston's
defense forcing so many turnovers this season, they have
actually had fairly short fields to work with on offense. I
think this one comes down to quarterback play and currently
I think Rutgers is getting a little more out consistency of
the position than Houston is. I also think Rutgers has a
little better ground game right now that Houston does which
lends itself to sustain linger drives.
over looks like the smart bet in this one as both teams
figure to score quite a bit of points. Rutgers comes in a
little more battle tested, having faced more formidable
competition up to this point. The talent pool is a little
deeper on the Rutgers roster and that talent will be enough
to carry Rutgers to victory, although this one looks like it
will be close for a while. Rutgers 45 Houston 35.
will win? Predict the score........
think this game has a real shot at turning into a shootout
much like Houston has seen in several games this season as
has Rutgers. I think Rutgers will jump out early but Houston
will catch-up with the help of a turnover or two on defense
and then they will battle it out into the second half.
Rutgers 42 Houston 38