The 4-2 Rutgers Scarlet Knights take on the 3-4 Army Black Knights under the Friday night lights in the ESPN national TV spotlight at Michie Stadium in West Point, New York. Last Friday night, Rutgers had its four-game winning streak snapped by Pittsburgh while Army went down on Saturday to Temple. Both teams will be looking to bounce back but history is on Rutgers’ side. Rutgers has won 8 of the last 10 meetings, including 41-6 and 30-3 victories the last two seasons. College football odds makers have listed the Rutgers Scarlet Knights as the 10-point favorite.
Quarterback Tom Savage is playing well for Rutgers and wide receiver Tim Brown has been the leading beneficiary. Brown tied a career high with seven catches last week, gaining 96 yards and scoring a touchdown. His touchdown vaulted him to sixth place on Rutgers career touchdowns list. Last year, Rutgers torched Army for 359 yards through the air and its air attack could be the key to another big win.
Defensively, you have to like the work of linebacker Antonio Lowry. He is coming off a career-high 12-tackle performance against Pitt and he will have to have another big game if the Scarlet Knights hope to keep Army’s strong running game in check. The Rutgers defense has also been very opportunistic, having forced a turnover in 12 straight games now.
Special teams is one area that is holding the Scarlet Knights back and that could bite them in the butt this week if they don’t improve. Joe Lefeged dropped two kicks against Pitt. The team was forced to replace Lefeged with Brown but Rutgers would like to limits Brown’s special teams play to decrease his chance of injury and to keep him fresh for offense. The Scarlet Knights also shot themselves in the foot with a couple costly penalties. George Johnson and Antonio Lowry both got hit with facemask penalties and Johnson had another personal foul as well. It is worth noting that the Scarlet Knights are 6-0 against the spread in the last six meetings in this matchup and the Black Knights are 1-10 against the number in their last 11 games against the Big East.
Army is after its first bowl game since 1996 but if it is going to pull it off, it can’t afford losses like it took at Temple last week. The Black Knights outgained the Owls by 61 yards and had the ball nearly four minutes longer, but took a loss. The game was tied at 13 heading into the fourth quarter, but Army chose to go for it on fourth and inches from their own 24 and came up short. The decision proved to be costly as Temple would score the go ahead touchdown just a few plays later.
Army could have some success against a Rutgers defense that was torched for 223 yards on the ground against Pitt last week. Army racked up 217 yards on the ground against Rutgers last season but it was unable to convert those yards into points. With this one being in West Point, the Black Knights will hope to feed off their home crowd to dwarf that number. For army to prevail this week, QB Trent Steelman and the offense is going to have to keep Rutgers offense off the field by controlling the time of possession. Army ranks 12th in the nation in rushing with a 222.6 yards per game average and Steelman is leading the way with 407 yards on the ground for the Black Knights.
Defensively, Army will have to defend the pass better than it did a season ago in this matchup and so far the Black Knights have done a pretty good job of that this season. Army ranks 17th in the country in total defense, allowing 285.9 yards per game and 21st against the pass, allowing 171.9 yards per game. It is worth noting that the Scarlet Knights are 0-5-1 against the number in their last six games as a favorite of 3.5-10.0 points.
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