Previewing Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, NJ - OCTOBER 08: Chas Dodd #19 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights throws a pass against the Connecticut Huskies at Rutgers Stadium on October 8, 2010 in Piscataway, New Jersey. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

So how many of you knew without thinking about it that Pitt hasn't won two games in a row all season.

Ouch.

Okay, face it - it seems as though Rutgers has had Pitt's number as of late. Well the reason its seems that way is because it's actually been that way.

Pitt has lost four of its past five games against Rutgers, with the only win coming last season, and the teams face off once again in the Big East Game of the Week. The Scarlet Knights have not only beaten Pitt, but they've done so in some crucial times.

Pitt was on a roll in 2006 and started the season 6-1. Rutgers game to town, dealt the Panthers a 20-10 defeat, and Pitt went on to lose five in a row to close out a bowl-less season.

In 2007, Pitt was desperately trying to reach a bowl game. The team was 4-5 and lost to Rutgers, all but assuring it was out of bowl contention.

And in 2008, Pitt was off to another fine start, 5-1. The Panthers had already gone on the road and defeated a top ten South Florida team. Sure they lost their opener to Bowling Green, but they were starting to put things together. Not only did Pitt lose to Rutgers, they were blown out by 20 in a game maybe even more embarrassing than this season's Miami disaster.

Dom DeCicco says the Panthers are still thinking about that game:

"We still have that game from two years ago on our mind," said strong safety Dom DeCicco said. "The coaches have been showing us that all week in the defensive backs room. We have that in the back of our head because he's always coming out throwing the deep ball on us. They like to take shots downfield because they have tall receivers. We have confidence we're not going to let happen (on Saturday) what happened two years ago."

Yes, Pitt has had its troubles with the Scarlet Knights and this year might not be any different.

Rutgers enters the game with some of the most impressive defensive stats in the country. The team is 12th in scoring defense, 15th in total defense, and 17th in passing defense. It has a capable QB in Chas Dodd, who will be starting in place of Tom Savage, and dual-threat Mohamed Sanu. Sanu is a hybrid of a wide receiver and running back with 29 catches for 295 yards and 52 rushes for 285 yards, leading the team in both categories. Sanu also has six combined touchdowns on the season and may be Rutgers most explosive player.

Then, of course, Rutgers is dealing with the terrible situation of playing without Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed in last week's game vs. Army. There's no way to predict whether that will positively or negatively affect their play, but it will probably be a factor in some way. ESPN.com's Brian Bennett says it's one of the things to look for during the game:

It's impossible to tell how Rutgers will respond to the devastating injury to teammate Eric LeGrand last week that has dominated the discussion and thoughts in New Jersey. The closest parallel is probably how Connecticut played after losing Jasper Howard last year. The Huskies were inspired but took several weeks until they could close out and win a game, as the emotional fatigue might have been a factor. How do the Scarlet Knights come out on Saturday at Pittsburgh?

I think any school would do the same, but Pitt has done all the right things in getting ready to face a Rutgers team that's in a somber mood.

Rutgers also enters the game with a 4-2 record. The only problem is that they also suffer from a little thing I like to call, Syracuse Syndrome. Like Syracuse, they enter their matchup against Pitt with a winning record. But the team has gotten fat off close wins like FIU (won by five), Army (won by three), and UCONN (won by three). UCONN is a decent win, but that's really it. They've also lost to Tulane, which isn't good for, well, anybody.

So what do Pitt and Rutgers have in common? Well, like Pitt and Syracuse, penalties. Pitt ranks 111th in the nation with 8.5 penalties per game and Rutgers is even worse at 113th with 9.0 per contest.

The line as I last saw it was Pitt by 12. I'd say that's about right - I just don't see Rutgers posing a big threat. Then again, I thought that Pitt would probably beat Rutgers more times than not in these past four games and he Panthers ended up 1-4 in that span. Still, I think the team is focused again and with the game at home, will pull out the victory.

Pitt 27, Rutgers 13

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