It is not often a team plays a conference game to start the season. It's even more rare that the conference game is such a huge game and will have such an impact on the season going forward. Such is the case with Rutgers at home today vs Big East rival Cincinnati. Cincinnati is picked by many to win the Big East, but with a win today, suddenly Rutgers and their vaunted defense leaps into the favorite position.
A lot of people are saying the key to the Scarlet Knight's season is how do they replace the offense provided by departed starters QB Mike Teel and WR Kenny Britt. The 3400 yards plus that Teel threw for along with his 25 TD's don't just replace themselves. For as great a receiver Britt was he only caught 7 of those 25. Johnny thinks the key is how well new QB's Dom Natale and Jabu Lovelace redistribute that offense. Do these passes go to tight ends? Are the running backs more involved in the passing game? Another thing that will need to improve is the running game. Sooner or later your running game has to win a couple games for you. It must control tempo some Saturdays and must be able to bleed the clock on other Saturdays. Rutgers, if they have sights on a Big East title will HAVE to run better than they did last season. No Kordell Young early this year, that hurts.
If the defense is as good as advertised things are looking good. Head Coach Greg Schiano's front seven is as good as it's ever been at Rutgers. LB Ryan D'Imperio will be expected to lead the charges all season long and will have a GREAT first test in Cincinnati QB Tony Pike. It'll be a great cat and mouse game this afternoon between those two. The defense may have to pick up the offense at points early this season, this would be one of those days. Not lot of offenses come out in mid-season form in week one unless you're USC playing San Jose St. Here's hoping Rutgers employs a HAM defense this year; Hostile-Agile-Mobile.
Rutgers has a dream schedule this year. They get Cincy, Pitt, South Florida, and West Virginia at home. The league road games against the bottom feeders in Syracuse, Louisville and UConn. If Rutgers wants to sit at the adult table this Thanksgiving, meaning being taken SERIOUSLY as a BCS team, they HAVE to make hay at home. There is no reason they can't run the table in Piscataway this year.
Now, Johnny knows the Star-Ledger wants you to follow the game over there and comment over there but the Jersey City Desk offers you the ability to do something here you can't do on nj.com, swear. Fell free to let 'er rip in comments. If the refs make a bad call, say it don't spray it. If Schiano makes a questionable play call, have at it. You'll not be censored here.
Johnny hates Cincnnati head Coach Brian Kelly. He was a real dickhead at Central Michigan University, something Johnny knows something about. He acted like a perfect ass in his dealings with other MAC coaches. Johnny can't imagine he's improved that much and become a human being. Reason enough to root against the Bearcats we think.