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August 29, 2013

Rutgers vs Fresno State: Who has the edge?

The 2013 season will kick off this evening as Rutgers travels out west to take on nationally ranked Fresno State. Which team has the edge? We asked our resident experts!

Bobby Deren

Ryan Abraham

Rutgers will look to replace its first 1,000-yard rusher since Ray Rice, and there are plenty of question marks surrounding the run game. The offensive line also has a few uncertainties, although RU's passing game looks like it could be in for a big year in 2013. The difference in this one is that Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr has already proven that he can back up his potential with production. Carr and company have more proven firepower and the edge here goes to Fresno.
Which team has the more potent offense?
Both offenses lost their 1,000-yard rusher from 2012. Both offenses return their quarterback and potential superstar wide receiver.. Having said all of that, I am going to give the edge to Fresno State here. Derek Carr has the potential to be a Heisman trophy candidate and will be in the same offense from one year to the next for the first time in his career. That could be the difference in this one.
Gary Nova. With an inexperienced defense, a win for Rutgers could hinge on the right arm of Nova. Following a dreadful performance in last year's season finale, Nova has shown a lot of maturation. However, when the lights come on and the hitting begins, it will be interesting to see which Nova shows up for Rutgers.
Who is the Offensive 'X Factor,' and why?
I think Rutgers with the 6-foot-6 freak Brandon Coleman and new offensive coordinator Ron Prince are the X-factors on offense. The Fresno State defense isn't sure what to expect from Prince, and Coleman is a guy that is nearly impossible to match up with.
Rutgers loses so many key players on defense, it is hard to give them the edge here. The unit will debut three new starters in the secondary and will feature two new starting linebackers. Depth is also thin on the defensive side of the football and the rotations on the defensive line will be put to the test right away. With so many unproven players now in the fold as well as a new defensive coordinator, the Bulldog defense gets the slight nod.
Which team has the better defense?
Last year Rutgers had a top-10 defense, but with so many guys moving on to the NFL it will be difficult to match that in 2013. By the end of the season I expect this Rutgers defense to be playing at a very high level, but it would be hard to expect them to come out in week one and play as well on the road, so I am going to give the edge to Nick Toth's squad.
Steve Longa. Rutgers' new middle linebacker will make his first ever college appearance tonight. The redshirt freshman is still only 18 years of age but will have quite an onus placed upon his young shoulders. Last year's starter at the MIKE, Steve Beauharnais, made the Rutgers defense go. How well Longa adjusts to all that comes with playing in the middle could be key into how well the RU defense fares overall.
Who is the defensive 'X Factor,' and why?
Fresno State's JC transfer cornerback Curtis Riley was almost an afterthought when he joined the Bulldogs this fall. He quickly got the attention of the coaches and now finds himself in a starting role opposite L.J. Jones, making him an X-Factor for the Bulldogs on defense.
Rutgers is notorious for its ability to block punts and also has a weapon on kickoff returns in Jeremy Deering, who ranked fourth in the nation two years ago with a 31.18 yard average. Add in senior transfer Nick Marsh at punter and Rutgers has another special teams weapon. The place-kicking remains a bit unproven but Rutgers has enough to get the edge in this one.
Who has the edge on special teams?
Head coach Tim DeRuyter has had nothing but praise for his freshman kicker Colin McGuire, a huge improvement over the walk-on kicker the Bulldogs relied on last season. But Rutgers has the edge in this one with their potential to block kicks and turn the tide of the game.
This one may come down to Carr vs. Nova and which one is better at running the two-minute offense. Nova faltered in that aspect last year against Louisville, costing Rutgers a trip to a BCS Bowl. I will have to go with the guy who is a more proven commodity at this point and that is Carr and Fresno State.
If the game comes down to a final drive, which team drives the length of the field?
�Gary Nova played well out of the gate last season but then struggled as the season wore on. With a senior quarterback like Derek Carr leading the way and so many weapons to choose from, Fresno State is quite capable of driving the length of the field in crunch time.
Rutgers will no longer be able to rely on its defense the way it did in previous seasons and that reality will surface against Carr and the Bulldogs. The RU defense will hang in for a while but its inexperience will show up through four quarters of football. The Rutgers offense will have some shining moments but there are just too many question marks to overcome this early in the season. Fresno State takes it 28-21.

Which team will win?
I think this one will start out with both offenses struggling, more from self inflicted wounds than stellar defensive play. But as the game wears on I think the Bulldog defense will force a few turnovers and the offense will get things going. I like Fresno State to win this one 30-20.

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