Here is your hastily assembled set of things to look for in tonight's game.
1. Get ready for the pressure.
Under Pressure (via QueenLover14)
It's the terror of knowing what Rutgers' defense is about, watching some good QBs scream "let me out." You know what they're going to do -- bring the heat. It worked beautifully last year. B.J. Daniels was sacked almost as many times as he completed a pass (6 sacks, 7 completions), and USF only managed 159 yards of total offense in their only regular-season shutout to date, 31-0. It falls to Daniels and the offensive coaching staff to have their plans ready for when the blitzes start raining down. They must be quick and decisive.
2. The defense, and especially the front seven, has to be ready for anything. Rutgers has made its bones with power running in their four straight wins over USF. But this year they may have to do something else. Their offensive line is a shambles and bowling ball running back Joe Martinek isn't quite at full strength. (Martinek ran for 128 yards against USF last year, and 98 yardage in 2008 -- they're the two biggest yardage totals against Big East opponents in his college career.) The line's problems and the lack of offensive playmakers have been a couple of the reasons the Scarlet Knights have resorted to using Mohamed Sanu and the Wildcat so much this year, and at times it's been the only way they can move the ball. With their offense not being especially proficient at any one thing, I think Rutgers will have to depend on unpredictability to put up more than a handful of points.
(I still question if USF is better equipped to handle a power team like this than they were last year -- their only test so far was against Syracuse, and they didn't hold up that well. Fortunately they may get by this week without being tested again. Not because Rutgers doesn't want to, but because they're not equipped to.)
3. The special teams need to shine. I think this is going to be an ugly and low-scoring game, which means the kicking games will be that much more important. But Rutgers also has Joe Lefeged, who averages nearly 28 yards per kickoff return and is a whiz at blocking punts. The game could easily turn on a big play in special teams. This is also not the week to miss easy field goals, although Maikon Bonani has done very well since taking over the starting job.
4. Don't let our rage become your rage. USF fans REALLY want to win this game (maybe more than any other game on the schedule, which is kind of sad). At this point, if people thought it might help the Bulls win, they might try and throw a burlap sack over Greg Schiano and carry him out of the stadium like at the end of Borat.* But the players need to keep it from becoming anything more than another Big East conference game. The new coaches will help here a lot -- they don't have the personal history with Rutgers that the previous staff did. Leavitt and some of his assistants got to the point where sticking it to Schiano became more important than actually winning.
* - The staff of Voodoo Five does not condone this action, even if you are trying to kidnap and marry Pam Anderson. Just so we're clear.
5. Give Robert Smith (who is calling the game) a powerful dose of truth serum, have him slip it into Todd McShay's drink on the ESPN2 college football set, then have him tell Wendi Nix to ask McShay a question about why the BLOODY HELL he threw so much support behind Jake Locker before the season when it turns out any good defense can eat him for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Yeah, I couldn't think of a fifth key. But you want the answer to this question too.