Old Hat For Rutgers Against New Power

By Adam Caparell - October 18, 2007

For the second straight season, Rutgers has the chance to ruin somebody's national title hopes on a Thursday night in Piscataway. The difference this year is that it comes against an unlikely No. 2.

Into New Jersey comes second-ranked USF, atop the Big East and sitting shotgun in the national championship race after last Sunday's first BCS standings of the season revealed the Bulls are second behind No. 1 Ohio State. That means he Scarlet Knights have a golden opportunity to get a much needed win that would not only lift them back into the rankings and vault them back into the Big East race, but derail a team's national title hopes just as it's picking up steam.

"It's great. It never gets to be old hat," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said earlier this week.

Funny how familiar this all sounds.

It was last November that Rutgers welcomed in No. 3 Louisville on a Thursday and knocked off the Cardinals, ending their shot at the national championship prematurely. The Scarlet Knights' second half comeback that night was predicated on defense and the rushing prowess of Ray Rice.

And it's a formula they'll surely try to follow tonight.

Rutgers is the last team to rush for more than 100 yards on the Bulls - a span of 14 games - when they beat USF in Tampa last season, 22-20. And the Rutgers defense, which has been a disappointment so far this season, forced three turnovers out of QB Matt Grothe.

But Schiano is expecting better out of the Bulls tonight, espeically from the sophomore Grothe.

"Their quarterback is more experienced. He was an incredible athlete, he's an incredible athlete this year, but he's more experienced, understands their offense better," Schiano said. "Their wide receiving corps is better. They have more choices at running backs. Last year they didn't have a guy per se, this year they have three or four."

Grothe is the offensive catalyst for the Bulls. Not only is he fifth in the nation in passing efficiency, but he can hurt you with his feet. And then there's the Bulls defense, the best in the Big East, that has more speed and talent than any other unit in the conference, reminding Schiano of someone.

"They're very talented, they can run," Schiano said. "They remind me of some of the Miami teams that I was a part of and played against."

That's very high praise for the Bulls who - as almost every college football fan knows by now - didn't even have a football program a dozen years ago. Every week they achieve their highest ranking and have found themselves legitimately in the national title race, something Rutgers couldn't manage in its magical 2006 season.

"They look awfully good. I don't know anymore what a No. 1 team looks like, it's almost you don't want to be the No. 1 team," Schiano said. "Don't get me wrong I would take that today, but they are very talented, let's put it that way. The thing that separates them from a lot of teams that you watch is they can really run. At every position they can really run. Every position - even their offensive line runs well."

The fact that Schiano knows the Bulls so well shouldn't come as a surprise considering he's getting ready to face the Rutgers of 2007.

Posted by Adam Caparell at 11:23 AM on October 18, 2007

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