Rutgers (3-0) at Arkansas (1-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 22, 7:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Razorback Stadium (72,000) -- Fayetteville, Arkansas. Television: ESPN U. Home Record: Rutgers 1-0, Arkansas 1-1. Away Record: Rutgers 2-0, Arkansas 0-0. Neutral Record: Rutgers 0-0, Arkansas 0-1. Conference Record: Rutgers 1-0, Arkansas 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Two teams heading in opposite directions face off in Fayetteville on Saturday night, as the Arkansas Razorbacks play host to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
After two impressive non-conference wins over Tulane (24-12) and Howard (26-0) to start the season, Rutgers opened up its Big East slate in outstanding fashion last week, dismissing USF on the road, 23-13, marking just the third time the program has won its Big East opener on the road. The Scarlet Knights are 3-0 for the first time since 2007, and it is only the fifth time they've accomplished that feat since 1980.
As for Arkansas, its season started the way it was supposed to for a team ranked ninth in the nation, defeating FCS foe Jacksonville State handily, 49-24. From there however, things fell apart. The Razorbacks blew a big lead to ULM two weeks ago and eventually lost in overtime, 34-31. That was followed by an embarrassing 52-0 beat down from No. 1 Alabama on their home field. There is some reason for optimism however, as the team has won 14 straight games against non-conference opponents in Fayetteville.
Not only have these two teams never met before, but it marks the first time in school history that Arkansas will play a current member of the Big East.
Despite its record, the Rutgers offense has not been very efficient to this point in the season, averaging just 24.3 points per game, coming away with just three touchdowns on eight trips to the red zone.
The offense leans heavily on its stud running back Jawan Jamison, who has tallied 393 yards and two touchdowns on 69 carries. The workhorse is coming off a game in which he set a school record for carries with 41.
Gary Nova hasn't been flashy but for the most part he's been effective, completing 55 percent of his passes for 575 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions.
Tim Wright (171 yards) and Mark Harrison (83 yards) lead the team with 13 catches apiece, and half of Brandon Coleman's six receptions have been for touchdowns.
Without question, the Scarlet Knights' stout defense has been the primary reason for its success, as the unit is allowing a mere 8.3 ppg while forcing six turnovers.
Khaseem Greene has been the team's best defensive player with 34 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, and a forced fumble. Ka'lial Glaud also has two sacks, and Brandon Jones has two interceptions.
The Razorbacks offense has gotten worse with each game they have played this season, and the unit now averages 359.3 yards per tilt.
When Tyler Wilson is in the lineup, the offense is one of the SEC's best, as the signal caller has completed 30-of-47 passes for 563 yards and five touchdowns, but he left the ULM game early and didn't play at all against Alabama. In his absence, Brandon Allen has played poorly, completing less than 45 percent of his pass attempts for 178 yards, tossing just one touchdown to three interceptions. In fairness however, most of his work came against Alabama, which is widely regarded as having the best defense in the nation.
Knile Davis (191 yards, two TDs) is fully recovered from a knee injury that caused him to miss the entire 2011 campaign, but his low yards per carry average (3.5) suggests that he is still getting used to the speed of the game.
Chris Gragg leads the team is receptions (17), receiving yards (226), and receiving touchdowns (two). Brandon Mitchell is always a threat to make a play deep, as he has recorded 127 yards on just five catches.
While the offense can use the excuse of not having its quarterback for much of the time, there's no crutch the defense can lean on to back up its shoddy play, as the unit has allowed 436.7 yards per game.
Rohan Gaines, Tenarius Wright, Alonzo Highsmith and Ross Rasner all have more than 20 tackles. The unit has been credited with six sacks and four interceptions.
Arkansas is a team that is in disarray, and even though this is a non- conference matchup, it desperately needs a win in front of its home crowd to help boost morale. If Wilson is able to suit up, the Razorbacks have a strong chance of doing just that, but without their star QB, RU's strong defense will likely prey on the weakness under center.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Rutgers 24, Arkansas 21
09/19 10:42:59 ET