By: Eric Finelli
Its finally here, the start of the college football season. Rutgers and new head coach Kyle Flood will march into Louisiana Saturday and try to start their season off the right way, with a win against the Tulane Green Wave. Rutgers is the favorite, with the spread officially at +20. I know this shouldn’t be a game worth getting nervous over, but I’m sure I don’t have to remind all the Rutgers’ faithful about 2010, when we lost to Tulane by the difference of a field goal. Those were dark, dark, days, but the program is headed in the right direction. There have been a lot of changes this offseason, and this first game will be a nice way to ease into 2012 (I hope). So, without further ado, let’s delve a little deeper into what to watch for on Saturday.
What will the defense look like without Schiano in 2012?
This question has been looming in the minds of all Rutgers fans since Greg Schiano left in January for an NFL head-coaching job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Schiano always managed to put together a solid defense that could compete at any level, even when the team lacked significant talent. Flood has been with Rutgers since 2005, when he was brought on as an offensive line coach. In ’08 he was promoted to assistant head coach by Schiano, so he has been with the program for quite a while. My hope is that some of that Schiano ‘defensive magic’ has rubbed off on Flood and that he can continue to prepare the defense in ways we became accustomed to under Schiano.
The defense has eight returning starters, including senior defensive tackle Scott Vallone and linebacker Khaseem Greene. Logan Ryan also returns to the lineup after emerging as one of the best shutdown corners in the Big East last year. On paper, the defense looks to be in great shape, but as Andy Gray has told me a million times in FIFA, paper never won a football match.
Since Mike Teel left the program, the quarterback position has been a revolving door of freshman. The last three seasons have seen three different true freshmen start multiple games for the Scarlet Knights. Guessing who would end up starting games last season was a weekly mystery to fans, with Chas Dodd and Gary Nova both getting their fair share of time. Schiano’s system seemed to be to play whoever had the hot hand, and to replace them when their hand began to cool.
Dodd ended last season as the starter, winning the bowl game against Iowa State, but after a tough training camp battle, Nova has managed to earn the starting spot. Nova is the better prospect; he is taller and has a stronger arm. He still has work to do though; he needs to improve his decision-making and overall consistency. One aspect of the game in which Dodd edges out Nova is big-play potential. Dodd and his gunslinger mentality are never afraid to let the ball fly, which ends up leading to both big plays and big interceptions.
I’d be a fool to say we’ve seen the last of Dodd, but I hope that Nova plays well enough so that the “QB controversy” won’t end up being a controversy at all.
Prediction: 34-7 Rutgers
I predict that Rutgers, as long as they come out prepared and ready to play, will dominate this game. They are much more talented on both sides of the ball and have great coaches to prepare them. Barring some sort of disaster, I think Rutgers takes this one easily.
- Losing Mohamed Sanu to the NFL was a big deal, but I think senior receiver Mark Harrison (as long as he stops dropping balls) and sophomore Brandon Coleman (as long as he keeps reminding me of Plaxico Burress) can make a big enough impact to fill that gap this year.
- Long time place kicker San San Te has finally graduated after starting four straight years. San San had his ups and his downs as a Scarlet Knight, but the truth is that he was actually a great college kicker, and I’m sure there will come a day when I’ll miss seeing ole San San march on to the field and blow an extra point. The new kicker for RU is Kyle Federico from Ponte Vedra High school in Florida. He is a true freshman, and from all accounts seems poised to be the kicker of the future.
- One thing Rutgers Football is notorious for is playing down to the level of their opponent. It would not be a good sign if this were to happen in their very first game of the season, so that’s definitely something to watch for.
- The game starts at 8 PM and can be seen on CBS Sports Network