No. 24 South Florida Bulls (6-2, 3-3 ATS) at Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-2, 3-3 ATS) Rutgers Stadium Piscataway, New Jersey Thursday November 12th, 7:30PM Eastern
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Point Spread: South Florida -1/Rutgers Scarlet Knights +1
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The Big East regains center stage this week on Thursday night when the Rutgers Scarlet Knights host the 24th ranked South Florida Bulls in a primetime fight. The Bulls bounced back last week after suffering back to back losses over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh who are the top two teams in the conference. The Bulls rebounded to take down no. 21 West Virginia rather easily 30-19 and have some tough games remaining on the schedule if they seek to finish as strong as they started. South Florida will meet up with a Rutgers team that is in many ways very similar to the Bulls as they attempt to defend their regained top 25 ranking.
Rutgers is a team in the Big East that many are not exactly sure about. The Scarlet Knights have a very respectable 6-2 record and some solid victories on the season, but many still question just how good the Scarlet Knights are considering they dropped their two biggest test of the season to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh just like their foes in South Florida. The Scarlet Knights did make things very interesting against Pittsburgh before falling by a single touchdown and they have rattled off two straight wins in recent weeks. The Scarlet Knights are seeking to prove they can be a force in the Big East as they continue to try and steer the program back to that 11-2 mark posted in 2006.
One reason that the Scarlet Knights must be respected heading into this contest is because they have historically played strong at home. Heading into the season, Rutgers was 17-5 in their last 22 home games. Of course they have dropped two home games this season, but those have been to the powerhouses of the conference. The Scarlet Knights will bring a solid defense to the table against South Florida. Rutgers ranks 3rd in the Big East allowing opposing offenses just 322 yards per game and 17 points per contests as well. South Florida brings a strong running game into the contest, but the Scarlet Knights are just allowing a conference 2nd best 106 yards per game. The main goal for the defense will be keeping B.J. Daniels from making big plays with his legs. If that happens, Rutgers could shut down the Bulls as their pass offense has been fairly inconsistent to say the least.
However, the Scarlet Knights offense has had similar troubles. Running back Joe Martinek has really carried the offense with his legs. Martinek has 121 carries for 602 yards on the season with 7 touchdowns. The Rutgers running back was extremely valuable two weeks ago in their Friday night contest against Army racking up 139 yards in the victory and he will likely be the main difference in the offensive production this Thursday night. QB Tom Savage is completing just 56% in his freshman season. However, one thing Savage has done well is protect the football throwing just 1 interception all year compared to 8 touchdowns. In fact, Rutgers has dominated the turnover margin at a lucrative +18 margin which is the best in the nation. The Scarlet Knights have only turned the ball over a total of 7 times all year, but have 25 takeaways. In a game that is figured to be a nail bitter this Thursday night turnovers could play a critical role as they always do in close games. If that happens, Rutgers may have the advantage.
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South Florida on the other hand on paper looks identical to Rutgers. They have a strong defense holding opponents to just 315 yards and 17 points per game. The run game is strong while the passing game continues to have its ups and downs. The only difference is South Florida’s leading player on offense is their quarterback B.J Daniels. Daniels leads the team in rushing with 519 yards and 4 touchdowns on the ground which is impressive considering he did not take his first snap until the 3rd game of the season. However, throwing the football has been a much different story. Daniels is completing just 52% with 10 touchdowns and 6 picks.
From a few of the primetime games this season, it appears Daniels has a very strong arm but just has some accuracy issues. However, there have been problems with the receivers catching the ball as well this year. Out of the entire wide receiving core, only 3 players have more than 10 catches. Also, only WR Carlton Mitchell has more than 20 catches on the year with 29 total for 542 yards. If the Bulls are going to go to the air more as they have in all of their wins this season, the receivers are going to have to make plays. Mitchell should give the team a decent down the field threat Thursday night and if anyone can make some big plays in the passing game it will really help the run game as well.
Jay’s Pick - Rutgers has won 3 straight over South Florida and I think that streak continues Thursday night.