Rutgers Emerges As Big East Title Favorites
NEW YORK– By Jason Greenfield
After Thursday night’s win over South Florida, Rutgers looks like one of the two real favorites to win the Big East.
The Big East is not the conference it once was, and since West Virginia joined the Big 12 this season, the conference is weaker than ever. Rutgers’ win on Thursday was crucial in their quest to win the conference, but in order for the Scarlet Knights to make a BCS bowl they have to sole some of the questions they faced at the beginning of the season.
One of the question marks the Scarlet Knights didn’t need to solve was their defense. Rutgers has the best defense in the Big East, led by Co-Big East Defender of the Year Khaseem Greene. Rutgers ranked 9th against the pass and 14th in total defense nationally last season. This season hasn’t gone too differently, as Rutgers ranks 5th in college football in scoring defense.
However, as good as Rutgers’ defense looks, they are faced with a couple of problems, including a new coach and a consistent passing and rushing game, but appear to be answering these questions so far this year.
In regards to the RB and QB position, it appears Rutgers finally found consistent starters at those positions. Junior running back Jawan Jamison seems to be finding holes and exploiting other team’s defenses in 2012, with explosive speed and the ability to carry the load for the team when they need it. This is a change from last season, when Jamison would sometimes not get the key yards in certain situations and lacked consistency. In the three games this season, Jamison rushed for over 100 yards in each of the games. He has 373 yards with two TDs, and is getting praiseworthy comparison to Ray Rice, the former Scarlet Knight standout.
At QB, Rutgers appears to have a steady option for the first time since Mike Teel. Sophomore Gary Nova appears to be the starter for the year (since 2009 Nova is Rutgers third QB, taking over the job from Chas Dodd, who took the job from Tom Savage). Thursday night’s game was probably the best game of Nova’s career. He threw for 277 yds with a TD and no picks. Nova looked shaky at times last season and lost the job in the middle of last season. As good as Nova looked against USF, one has to take in consideration that before yesterday, Nova threw for under 200 yards and had a 3-2 TD to INT ratio. These numbers should not be this low considering they played Howard University, who play in the MEAC, and Tulane University who play in Conference USA and who went 2-11 last year.
New coach Kyle Flood has taken over for Greg Schiano, who now coaches on Sundays for Tampa Bay, and as one would think, there would be a setback in performance in communication in how Flood interacts with the team. So far, it doesn’t appear to be a problem and Rutgers looks hungrier for a championship.
If Rutgers can continue on the track it is on now, where their defense is dominating opposing offenses, and can continue to get what they are getting from Jamison and Nova, Rutgers can make a serious run in the Big East and may be the team along with Louisville and South Florida to win the conference.