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2006 Texas Bowl Preview - Rutgers vs. KSU
Posted Dec 14, 2006

2006 Texas Bowl Preview & Prediction - Rutgers vs. Kansas State

Rutgers (10-2) vs. Kansas State (7-5)

Dec. 28, 8:00 p.m. ET, NFL Network

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Rutgers went into overtime, three to be exact, at West Virginia with a chance to go to the Orange Bowl as the Big East's representative in the BCS. In the heartbreaking, gut-wrenching loss, the breakout, breakthrough, 10-2 season winds up with ... the Texas Bowl?

Blame the Big East for making some awful deals with its bowl ties as Greg Schiano's club now has to fight through the disappointment and  keep the fire it had to get to the brink of the BCS. If the team comes in flat, the rising Kansas State squad will end Rutgers' year on a truly disastrous note.

While playing in Houston isn't exactly what Rutgers had in mind, this might as well be a trip to Glendale for Ron Prince in his first year as the head man at Kansas State. With the program sliding back into mediocrity after two straight losing seasons and the retirement of Bill Snyder, Prince took over the youth movement and has things pointed in the right direction after a solid 7-5 season highlighted by a win over Texas.

National Rankings
Kansas State Rutgers
Total Offense
770th  328 ypg 67th  333.92 ypg
Total Defense
63rd  334.5 ypg 7th  259.75 ypg
Scoring Offense
58th  23.83 ppg 29th  29.17 ppg
Scoring Defense
60th  22.67 ppg 9th  14.67 ppg
Run Offense
80th  122.17 ypg 20th  177.58 ypg
Run Defense
70th  143.42 ypg 25th  106.83 ypg
Pass Offense
52nd  205.83 ypg 104th  156.33 ypg
Pass Defense
46th  191.08 ypg 7th  152.92 ypg
Turnover Margin
67th  -0.08 16th  0.67
Kansas State
Illinois St  W 24-23
Fla Atlantic W 45-0
Marshall W 23-7
Louisville L 24-6
at Baylor L 17-3
Okla St
W 31-27
Nebraska L 21-3
at Missouri L 41-21
Iowa State W 31-10
at Colorado W 34-21
Texas W 45-42
at Kansas L 39-20
at N Car W 21-16
Illinois W 33-0
Ohio W 24-7
Howard W 56-7
at S Florida W 22-20
at Navy W 34-0
at Pitt W 20-10
W 24-13
Louisville W 28-25
at Cincinnati L 30-11
W 31-7
at WVU L 41-39 3OT
Position Ratings
relative to each other
KSU 5 highest
1 lowest
3.5 Quarterbacks 3.5
4 RBs 5
3.5 Receivers 3
3.5 O Line 5
3.5 D Line 4
3.5 Linebackers 4
3.5 Secondary 4.5
4.5 Spec Teams 5
3.5 Coaching 5

Yes, the Wildcats had a relatively easy non-conference schedule beating Illinois State, Florida Atlantic and Marshall, but it also held down Louisville in a 24-6 loss. Despite a 1-3 Big 12 start, including a loss to Baylor, the team was able to turn things around by getting by the dregs of the North, Iowa State and Colorado, before pulling off the Texas shocker. An eight-win season might not seem like much, but if the Wildcats can beat Rutgers, it would be a huge first step in the Prince era.

Rutgers has to keep its focus for its first 11-win season since 1976 and firmly establish itself as a player on a national scale. While beating Kansas State isn't like beating Oklahoma, a dominant performance would show that this team is for real, being able to dispose of an average also-ran, but a loss might be disastrous for national perception. It might not be fair, but when it comes to preseason rankings and battles for at-large BCS spots, games like this one stick in the voters' minds, for right or wrong. 

The Scarlet Knights win with a stifling defense and a killer running game with the 1-2 rushing punch of Ray Rice and Brian Leonard. The knock on the team all season long was the passing game, but with the ground attack so effective, QB Mike Teel hasn't needed to step up too often.

Kansas State doesn't do any one thing all that well, but its defense, at times, has been good while the offense has stepped up over the second half of the season after starting the year struggling to get into the end zone. The maturity of young players like QB Josh Freeman and RB Leon Patton has helped, but they still have a long way to go before they reach their immense potential. This is a team to watch out for over the next few years. 

This is a showcase game for Rice and Freeman and a chance for many to see what these 2007 stars can do. Unfortunately, it's being played on the NFL Network, which is still limited in its reach, at the same time as the California vs. Texas A&M Holiday Bowl played on ESPN. At the very least, try to TiVo this. It'll be a hard-fought, entertaining game if you like defense and running games.

Players to watch: Left tackle Pedro Sosa, left guard Mike Fladell, center Darnell Stapleton, right guard Cameron Stephenson, and right tackle Jeremy Zuttah. These five unsung stars form the foundation of the Rutgers offense paving the way for 2,131 rushing yards while allowing just eight sacks. Zuttah and Sosa, the junior tackles, are the best of the bunch, but the interior isn't far behind. The more they dominate the decent, but not special Kansas State defensive line, the more Rutgers will control the game.

The one Kansas State defensive lineman Rutgers does have to account for on every play is playmaker Ian Campbell, who's not all that heavy at around 240 pounds on a 6-4 frame, but has a great motor and is quick at getting into the backfield with 11.5 sacks on the year along with a Big 12 leading 16 tackles for loss. He'll match up on Zuttah early on in a battle of all-conference stars, but with Rutgers certain to try to win with the running game, Campbell's effectiveness might be limited early on.

The big key for Kansas State will be the play of freshman QB Josh Freeman, who has all the tools to become something special, but he's still a first-year player who makes too many mistakes trying to make plays that aren't there. At 6-6 and around 240 pounds, he's a big presence with a live arm able to make all the throws, and he's mobile. Now he has to be able to protect the ball after throwing 13 interceptions on the year with the team going 0-4 when he throws two picks or more.

Of course, the star of stars in this game is Ray Rice, who was deep in the heart of the Heisman race (or at least the hunt for second place) until he was held to 54 yards in the loss to Cincinnati. He's a scoring machine with at least one touchdown in every game this year and 19 on the year while rushing for 1,624 yards with nine 100-yard games. He's a quick back with home run hitting speed once he gets through the line, and with the way Kansas State has problems at times tackling, he should be able to break off several long runs.

Rutgers will win if... its defensive line can hold up. Rutgers relies on defensive speed and quickness at the sacrifice of size. The starting defensive line averages a mere 254 pounds per man, but still held up against the West Virginia running game allowing just 195 yards and hasn't been rumbled on for more than 200 all year. Kansas State is going to try to pound away with its big offensive line hoping to wear the defensive front four down, so the longer it can hold up, and the more pressure Freeman is under, the better. Getting long, sustained drives from Ray Rice and the offense would be nice.

Kansas State will win if... Mike Teel isn't hot. The Rutgers quarterback has been inconsistent throughout the year, bottoming out with a four-interception game in the loss to Cincinnati. He responded by completing 29 of 41 passes for 424 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in the wins over Syracuse and West Virginia, and if he's getting time and is accurate, Kansas State's in big trouble. The Wildcats will sell out early to stop the run, and has to use its defensive quickness to keep FB Brian Leonard and TE Clark Harris from making too much out of the short passing game. If KSU can throw Teel off and an extra safety or two can cheat up to stop Rice, the Rutgers offense could be in trouble.

What will happen: About 17 people outside of the greater Manhattan, Kansas area will watch this, but it'll be entertaining. Kansas State will be fired up while Rutgers might need a few minutes to get rolling. The Scarlet Knight offensive line will dominate as the game goes on, while the secondary will pick off Freeman at least twice after getting down early. The KSU ground game won't be working early, so Freeman will panic a bit and try to push too many plays deep to get the attack kickstarted. That'll play right into Rutgers' hands.

Line: Rutgers -7 ... CFN Prediction:
Rutgers 38 ... Kansas State 24

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