2008 International Bowl - Rutgers vs. Ball St
Rutgers RB Ray Rice
Rutgers RB Ray Rice
Posted Dec 27, 2007

2008 International Bowl Preview & Analysis - Rutgers vs. Ball State

Ball State (7-5) vs. Rutgers (7-5)

Jan. 5th, Noon p.m. ET, ESPN2

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- 2007 CFN International Bowl Preview
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2008 International Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More

National Rankings
Rutgers Ball State
Total Offense
26th  437.17 ypg 30th  431.67 ypg
Total Defense
13th  316.50 ypg 88th  418.75 ypg
Scoring Offense
42nd  31.17 ppg 38th  31.58 ppg
Scoring Defense
29th  21.83 ppg 57th  26.33 ppg
Run Offense
31st  190.17 ypg 65th  147.25 ypg
Run Defense
62nd  155.92 ypg 99th  197 ypg
Pass Offense
43rd  247 ypg 22nd  284.42 ypg
Pass Defense
2nd  160.58 ypg 50th  221.75 ypg
Turnover Margin
93rd  -0.50 2nd  1.42
Buffalo W 38-3
Navy W 41-24
Norfolk St
W 59-0
L 34-24
L 28-23
at Syra.
W 38-14
So Florida W 30-27
West Virginia L 31-3
at Conn.
L 38-19
 at Army W 41-6
W 20-16
at Louisville L 41-38
Ball State
Miami Univ. L 14-13
at East Mich W 38-16
at Navy W 34-31 OT
at Nebraska L 41-40
Buffalo W 49-14
Central Mich L 58-38
W Kentucky W 35-12
at W Mich W 27-23
at Illinois L 28-17
at Indiana L 38-20
Toledo W 41-20
at No Illinois W 27-21
Position Ratings
relative to each other
R 5 highest
1 lowest
3.5 Quarterbacks 4
5 RBs 2
3.5 Receivers 3.5
4 O Line 3
4 D Line 2
3.5 Linebackers 2.5
5 Secondary 2
4 Spec Teams 4.5
4.5 Coaching 3.5

Just a few years ago, Rutgers would have gladly accepted a bid to a defunct bowl game.  Today, folks are getting on the Scarlet Knights for only playing in the International Bowl.  Progress sometimes shows up in funny ways.

Oh sure, much more was expected of Rutgers than seven wins and a bowl trip that requires a passport, but has everyone lost sight of who we’re talking about?  This is the same school that went from the Civil War era to 2004 having played in exactly one postseason game.  A third bowl game in-a-row should be cause for a parade down the Jersey Turnpike, especially since head coach Greg Schiano has rebuffed a name-brand suitor for a second straight December.  Now, if only the Scarlet Knights can convince star RB Ray Rice to return to Piscataway for his senior year, the program can think seriously about a Big East title, the next step in its blueprint for national respect.

Rutgers exploded out of the gate in September, but blowouts of Buffalo, Navy, and Norfolk State did nothing to ensure that this year’s squad was as good as the one that won 11 games in 2006.  The Knights promptly flopped against Maryland and Cincinnati, setting the stage for a disappointing encore to a season ago.  Even after upsetting South Florida in front of a national TV audience, they failed to capture any momentum, losing badly to West Virginia and Connecticut in consecutive weeks.  Rock bottom, relatively speaking, was reached in the regular season finale, when Rutgers couldn’t put away a Louisville team that already had one cleat in the offseason.  A second bowl win in as many years will help put a positive spin on an otherwise spotty season.

Ball State broke through under fifth-year head coach Brady Hoke to finish above .500 and qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 1996.  The Cardinals overcame rampant injuries to the running backs and a faulty defense to contend for a MAC championship, earning Hoke some interest from larger programs, such as Michigan and Washington State.  Even in losing games on the road to Nebraska and Illinois, Ball State performed exceptionally well, holding leads in the second half before falling as a heavy underdog.

The undisputed face of the Ball State program is sophomore Nate Davis, the next big thing at quarterback in the Mid-American Conference.  Already attracting attention from NFL scouts, he throws a great ball, and can find his target on the move.  As the pilot of one of the league’s most potent passing games, Davis has thrown 27 touchdown passes, run for five more, and has been picked off just six times in 430 attempts.  With a player of his caliber in Muncie, Ball State is in every game, and is a program on the rise.                   

Players to watch: Rutgers and Rice will run at will on a very cushy Ball State interior, but it’ll also have the option to throw downfield when the time is right.  QB Mike Teel will have over a month to rest the injured thumb that plagued him throughout the season, and has access to the best set of receivers in the Big East.  Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood have both caught passes for more than 1,000 yards, presenting a dilemma for an undersized and overmatched Cardinal defensive backfield.  The 6-4 Britt, in particular, will literally be a tall order for a pair of cornerbacks that are 5-7 and 5-11.  To get Davis out of his comfort zone, the Scarlet Knights are banking on the inside-outside combo of DT Eric Foster and DE Jamaal Westerman to create a push up front.  The two have 13 tackles for loss apiece, helping give Rutgers one of the league’s better pass rushes.

As good as the Rutgers receivers are, they’ve got nothing on the Ball State tandem of WR Dante Love and TE Darius Hill, a couple of All-MAC first-teamers that have combined for 143 receptions and 20 touchdowns.  Love is a gamebreaker, capable of scoring in a number of different ways, including on kickoffs and handoffs.  At 6-6 with soft hands, Hill causes all kinds of match up headaches for linebackers and defensive backs.  Love and Hill versus a Scarlet Knight pass defense that’s No. 2 in the country is an irresistible game within the game.  The leader of the Cardinal defense, and one of the more unique postseason stories, is DE Brandon Crawford, a 31-year old ex-Marine that walked on to the team last year.  Officially a sophomore, he’s brought a sense of maturity and leadership to the unit, while also leading the team with 16 tackles for loss and seven sacks.

Rutgers will win if... it achieves balance on offense.  It’s doubtful that Ball State can corral Rice, but if Teel and the passing game are also clicking, the Scarlet Knights may not have to punt all afternoon.  The hulking offensive line, led by tackles Pedro Sosa and Jeremy Zuttah, will open up gaping holes for Rice to bolt through, while giving Teel all day to zero in on Britt and Underwood.  Although the Cardinals can score, it doesn’t want to be forced to reach 40 on a Rutgers defense that yields just 21 points a game.

Ball State will win if... it continues to dominate in turnover margin.  The Cardinals are No. 3 nationally in turnover margin, largely because no one in the country has done a better job of protecting the football.  In order to engineer one of the bowl season’s biggest upsets, Ball State must maintain that trend, while mixing in a few takeaways of its own.  It won’t be easy for the Cards to stop Rutgers on downs, so it’ll benefit tremendously if ball hawking defensive backs B.J. Hill, Trey Lewis, and Alex Knipp can intercept a couple of Teel’s errant passes.

What will happen: Davis and the passing game will keep the game interesting for three quarters, but Ball State won’t have any answers for a Rutgers offense that’ll move up and down the field with little resistance.  If this happens to be Rice’s final game as an amateur, it’ll be a memorable one highlighted by 150 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

Line: Rutgers -10 ... CFN Prediction: Rutgers 37 ... Ball State 28

2008 International Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More