The lull after the McNeese State game is finally over. It’s officially Rutgers Week.
Despite what the loss to Fresno State may indicate, the Scarlet Knights are a dangerous opponent. They retain a third year starting quarterback in Mike Teel, and they have two of the Big East’s best receivers in Tiquan Underwood and Kenny Britt. However, the shoes of Ray Rice might be two big to fill. Kordell Young may have had 94 yards and a touchdown against Fresno State, but he averaged 3.6 yards per carry, and he got absolutely no help from other tailbacks. Mike Teel obviously felt the pain, throwing two interceptions, zero touchdowns, and completing only 51.4 percent of his passes.
Of bigger concern may be the defense. While the secondary was effective against Fresno State’s passing game (Marlon Moore in particular), they let a few big plays past them at key moments in the second half. However, their biggest weakness was against the run. Ryan Matthews had 163 yards rushing, 20 yards receiving, and 3 touchdowns. In 2007 terms, that places Rutgers’ run defense with the likes of Nevada and San Jose State.
UNC’s performance against McNeese State, while a victory, was not any more impressive. Both lines seemed to be outplayed by the Cowboys, and the Tar Heels needed both a second half wake-up call and a record-setting performance from Brandon Tate to get the win. The Tar Heels share similar offensive problems with Rutgers. If Rutgers defends the pass as well as they did against Fresno State, another subpar rushing performance may be too much for Carolina to overcome.
Still, only so much can be interpreted from one game. The Scarlet Knights are a dangerous team until proven otherwise, and they should put up more than a good fight on Thursday night. After the disappointment against McNeese State, they should expect the same from the Heels.
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