December 27, 2012

Know Your Enemy: Rutgers

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Each game, we've gotten an inside look at Virginia Tech's opponents by talking with the opposing team's beat writer. This week, we spoke with senior writer Bobby Deren to get the inside look at Rutgers.

1) Is there any concern with how Rutgers finished out the regular season with the two losses?

Deren: Not a whole lot because the two defeats were very different. Rutgers was outplayed from the kickoff against Pittsburgh but it was sitting on a double-digit third quarter lead against Louisville before things fell apart. The way RU lost that game made it a tough pill for fans to swallow.

But the biggest problem in those two losses was Rutgers' lack of a running game. That was mainly because starting running back Jawan Jamison was not 100 percent with a sprained ankle. He made the RU offense go all season and without him, Rutgers was a different team.Now that he is healthy, Rutgers should look like the team that started off the season 7-0.

2) Does Jamison have to have a big running game for the offense to get going?

Deren: Yes. Without him, the offense will have to rely too much on the passing game and quarterback Gary Nova has not proven that he can carry the team week inn and week out. Rutgers relies on controlling the time of possession by running the football and playing stout defense, on which creates turnovers.

The staff seems very content with winning hard-fought low-scoring games. And the key to a lot of those wins has been the running of Jamison. He reeled off six 100-plus yard performances in the first seven games and it is now coincidence that Rutgers was 7-0 in that stretch.

3) The defensive focus is on Khaseem Greene, but is he the key to the defense or is it something else?

Deren: Rutgers has a lot of guys who make plays on defense, but Greene is the best of the bunch. He plays fast, smart and very physical. A week has not gone by when the crowd has not let out a collective gasp after at least one of Greene's hits. The RU defense really thrives on creating turnovers and Greene is the best in that department with six forced fumbles and two interceptions this season. He is a two-time Big East defensive player of the year and he will make his mark somehow in Friday night's game.

4) What's the biggest positive Rutgers feels like it has going into the bowl game?

Deren: Rutgers has won a share of the Big East championship, the first team ever to do so in the school's history. It also has the chance to be the third RU team ever to win double-digit games. The season ended with a heartbreaking loss to Louisville but this is a very resilient bunch. It is also a senior-laden squad with a lot of leadership. All those positives should have the Scarlet Knights ready to go on game day.

5) Rutgers has the better record and better season, but where is its confidence and does it feel like it has VT in a favorable spot?

Deren: It doesn't seem like Rutgers is concerning itself with having Virginia Tech in any kind of spot. The mood seems to be that if Rutgers plays its type of game, it will come out with a victory. The Scarlet Knights dropped three of their last five games although the team is much healthier now and is looking to return to the form that enabled them to start off the season with a 9-1 record. Confidence is high going into the game.

FEARLESS PREDICTION : It looks like it will be a hard-fought game on both ends and I do not see it being a very high-scoring affair. It should go down to the wire but with so many senior leaders playing in their final game I'll give Rutgers the nod 20-17.

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