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Under The Hood: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

As we get into the stretch run of this 2006 season, it's reasonable to say that we've got most teams pegged by now. We can't predict the winner of every game, but there's a general consensus surrounding just about every team.

But not all of 'em.

And one of those teams that?s a little bit difficult to gauge right now is a team that Texas is about to start rooting like crazy for: Rutgers. What kind of team are we looking at? Is there hope of a Rutgers upset tomorrow night against Louisville?

We don't have time to get into -too- much detail, but let's take a snapshot of what Rutgers has accomplished thus far, and see what we can learn about the Scarlet Knights.

@North Carolina - W, 21-16
Illinois - W, 33-0
Ohio - W, 24-7
Howard - W, 56-7
@South Florida - W, 24-7
@Navy - W, 34-0
@Pittsburgh - W, 20-10
Connecticut - W, 24-13

Margin of victory: +20.1 points
Margin of victory, removing Howard: +14.0 points

Their opponents have a combined record of 24-30 record against Division 1 teams for the season. As another rough guide, Jeff Sagarin rates their schedule as the 101st toughest in Division 1 football. A cynic might say the 19th easiest schedule in Division 1 football.

How is Rutgers performing statistically? Below are tables of Rutgers? season totals, with national rank in parentheses.

Rutgers By The Numbers: Defense

The next, final, step, is to put those numbers into context. The following chart shows the national rank in total offense and total defense for each of Rutgers? 2006 opponents. Howard, a Div 1AA team, is excluded.

Rutgers? Opponents' Positional Ranks
Rutgers By The Numbers: Offense
Rush YPG Rush YPC Rush TD Pass YPG Pass YPA Pass TD QB Rating Total Offense Scoring Offense
193.4 (12) 4.73 (20) 18 (16) 128.1 (114) 6.2 (92) 6 (112) 108.98 (91) 321.5 (79) 29.3 (27)
Rush YPG Rush YPC Rush TD Pass YPG Pass YPA Pass TD Total Defense Scoring Defense
92.13 (16) 2.8 (11) 5 (12) 135.3 (2) 5.5 (7) 4 (2) 227.4 (2) 9.1 (2)
Total Offense Rank Opponent Total Defense Rank
North Carolina
South Florida

Looking at all the above data, then, what can we conclude about Rutgers?

*In the wake of the Louisville-West Virginia game, I noted two things that bear relevance to this week?s big Louisville-Rutgers game. First, Louisville?s offense is well above average. Second, I noted that it was becoming increasingly difficult to just dominate a game defensively in college football these days; certainly when the opposing offense is a good one. Well? that doesn?t bode well for Thursday night. As impressive as Rutgers? defensive numbers are, they?ve come against some pretty run-of-the-mill offenses, as well as some atrocious ones. When you factor in Rutgers? inept passing game, it becomes difficult to imagine Rutgers scoring enough to win this football game. Just something to think about.

*The inept passing game means Louisville?s own (rather porous) defense will spend a lot of its capital on stopping Ray Rice and the Rutgers power rushing attack. How far does Bobby Petrino go in stopping this rushing game? You can count on seven in the box ? always ? and a lot of times eight. Once again, while Rutgers? rush totals are outstanding, they?ve been accumulated against some pretty bad defenses. And for all the flak Louisville?s received this week over its defense, they do still rank 25th in the country in rush yards allowed per game.

*Looking at Rutgers? schedule, how many teams in the country do you think would be 8-0 were they to play it? You?d be undershooting the right number if you said less than 15.

So where does that leave us? As Longhorn fans, not feeling great about the Scarlet Knights? chances Thursday evening. For Rutgers to win, they?ll need one of those magical nights under the home lights when everything comes together just so.

As with Wisconsin, we just don?t know that much about Rutgers, other than that they?ve been doing what a good team should do against the weaker opponents. Wisconsin, of course, lost comfortably in its only game against a real opponent.

What will happen to Rutgers against its first good team?

Guess we?ll find out soon enough.

[Previous "Under The Hood" Articles: Wisconsin]