Week 13 – Rutgers at Pitt

Posted Nov 21, 2012

Week 13 Fearless Prediction & Game Preview – Rutgers at Pitt

Rutgers (9-1) at Pittsburgh (4-6) Nov. 24, 12:00, ESPN2

Here's The Deal: It's been an eventful week in Piscataway.

On Saturday, Rutgers eliminated Cincinnati from Big East contention, setting up what will likely be a winner-take-all scenario with Louisville a week from Thursday. A day later, stories began to leak that the University would be joining the Big Ten for all of its athletics programs, a move that would markedly improve its exposure, reach and bottom line. It's been a positive few days for the Scarlet Knights, which now must keep their eyes on the ball for this week's trip to Western Pennsylvania.

Pitt used its bye week to heal and work on the little things that often get lost in the haze of a regular season. The Panthers must win the next two games in order to capture the six outings needed to participate in the postseason. The trend would seem to be in their favor. The program, which has dropped back-to-back games to Notre Dame and Connecticut, has answered each two-game losing streak with a two-game winning streak in 2012.

Why Rutgers Might Win: Defense wins championships … and games with mediocre conference opponents.

The Scarlet Knights are peaking on defense, giving up 10 total points over the last two games. They're tough in all phases, allowing three yards per carry and only eight touchdown passes all season. There are rocks at each level, from DT Scott Vallone up front, CB Logan Ryan on the back end and LB Khaseem Greene, well, everywhere. A weak, and at times overmatched, Pittsburgh offensive line is liable to get schooled from start to finish by the veteran Rutgers front seven.

Why Pittsburgh Might Win: As the offense sputters, Rutgers continues to be vulnerable against weaker opponents.

The Scarlet Knights are 96th nationally in total offense, as QB Gary Nova regresses and RB Jawan Jamison attempts to heal an injured ankle. Now, Savon Huggins was terrific in his place last Saturday, but Jamison remains the team's most consistent back. And while the Panthers defense is average, DT Aaron Donald is not. He's a tempo-changer from the inside, who's liable to blow up the Rutgers gameplan. You can't run the ball on Scarlet Knights, but wasn't that also said about Notre Dame? Ray Graham went for a season-high 172 yards on the Irish three weeks ago, and will continue getting quality blows from gifted rookie Rushel Shell.

What To Watch Out For: Ryan will draw the assignment of stopping Pitt's Devin Street, the 6-4, 190-pounder and top target in the passing game. He has three 100-yard games this fall, often creating mismatches with opposing defenders. Ryan, though, is an All-Big East defender who'll go high in the air to bat balls away. If the Panthers are going to deliver an upset, they'll have to balance the running of Graham and Shell with some timely connections from Tino Sunseri. Sunseri hasn't been picked off since Week 3, which could neutralize Rutgers' season-long penchant for creating turnovers.

What Will Happen: Rutgers isn't accustomed to making headlines or competing for titles. Faced with a road game versus a non-contender, it'll get caught looking ahead to Louisville.

The Scarlet Knights aren't above being picked off. Witness the Kent State game. Oh, and Pittsburgh has already defeated Virginia Tech, and should have done the same to unbeaten Notre Dame. The teams will lock horns in a predictably low-scoring brawl that hinges on special teams and fourth-quarter possessions. Graham will emerge as the hero in his final home game at Heinz Field, rushing for 120 hard-earned yards and a score to keep the Panthers in the hunt for a December bowl game.

CFN Prediction: Pittsburgh 20 … Rutgers 17
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Pittsburgh -2 O/U: 43.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Beware of Mr. Baker, 1 – Life of Pi): 2.5