Nov 15, 2012

Weekend Spotlight: No. 22 Rutgers at Cincinnati

The No. 22 Rutgers Scarlet Knights (8-1, 4-0 Big East) hit the road to face the Cincinnati Bearcats (7-2, 3-1 Big East) on Saturday. It’s the most important Big East game of the weekend and will have big implications on the conference postseason order, including the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Kickoff: Noon
Television: Big East Network/ESPN3
Series: Tied 8-8-1
Series Since 2005 When Cincinnati Joined The Big East: Cincinnati leads 5-2
Series In Cincinnati: Cincinnati leads 6-1-1
Last Meeting: November 19, 2011; Rutgers 20, Cincinnati 3
Line, Although Gambling Is Wrong And Discouraged But Maybe You Use It To Make Your Weekly ESPN College Pick ‘Em Choices Like I Do: Cincinnati 6.5 as of Wednesday.

The Bearcats lead the Big East in rushing offense with 226.8 yards per game, led by running back George Winn, the conference’s top rusher. Winn, backup Ralph David Abernathy IV and quarterback Munchie Legaux all average over 5.5 yards per carry and have combined for 16 touchdowns on the ground this season. However, to reach the end zone on Saturday they’ll have to run through the brick wall that is the Rutgers defense, which has allowed only 110 rushing yards per game and five rushing touchdowns all season. Legaux had some highlight moments as a passer this year, including a game-winning drive against Virginia Tech, threw nine interceptions against 13 touchdowns, five of which came in the Bearcats’ two losses (their only road games of the year to that point). Legaux was replaced by Brendon Kay in last week’s 34-10 win at Temple. Kay has been named the starter for Saturday’s game. Rutgers has 13 interceptions on the season, most in the Big East.

The Scarlet Knights’ shiny chrome helmets might have lost a little luster following their loss to 9-1 Kent State two weeks ago, but their resume in 2012 has been solid. Rutgers has won by double-digit margins in all but one of their eight wins, including a marquee road game at Arkansas in September. Sophomore quarterback Gary Nova has completed 61% of his passes through nine games, and besides a rough six-interception performance against the Golden Flashes he has been remarkably efficient. Receiver Brandon Coleman leads the league in touchdown receptions with eight on just 34 catches. Defensively the Knights only allow 13.4 points per game, fifth-best in the country behind No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 4 Alabama, No. 6 Florida and No. 10 Florida State. 

Cincinnati has been a Big East champion or co-champion three times in the past four years, including last season. With a win in this game they will stay on pace for their fifth season with 10 wins or more since 2007, and also re-enter the conversation for the Big East championship and BCS berth. Rutgers has yet to win a conference championship in the Big East but control their own destiny this weekend and on Nov. 29 when they host No. 19 Louisville. 

Stat That Makes It Sound Like Rutgers Should Win: Even including their -5 turnover margin in the lone loss, Rutgers leads the Big East with an overall margin of +11.

Stat That Makes It Sound Like Cincinnati Should Win: The Bearcats haven’t lost in Nippert Stadium this year, averaging 38.6 points per game.

Rutgers’ Remaining Schedule: @ Pittsburgh (Nov 24), vs. Louisville (Nov 29)

Cincinnati’s Remaining Schedule: vs. South Florida (Nov 23), @ UConn (Dec 1)

The Road To Orlando*: Cincinnati remains a game behind Rutgers and Louisville, which currently makes the Knights/Cardinals showdown in two weeks the lynchpin game for the Big East bowl picture. If both teams enter at 10-1, the winner will take the conference’s BCS bid while the loser will likely become the best available for Orlando with no other team within one overall win. However, by beating Rutgers, Cincinnati can force a three-way tie atop the conference headed into the final week. Cincinnati would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker against Louisville but hold it over Rutgers, a scenario which could make them the best available team for the Russell Athletic Bowl if the Cardinals go on to the BCS.

* – Not a guarantee.

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