Rutgers (8-4) vs. Central Florida (8-4)
Dec. 19, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Rutgers take by Big East blogger Brian Bennett: Rutgers is proof that you can schedule your way to a bowl, as six of the Scarlet Knights' victories came against Howard, Florida International, Texas Southern, Army, Maryland and Louisville.
Yet there's little doubt that this team was improving as the year went along. That should have been expected since the Scarlet Knights were starting true freshman Tom Savage at quarterback, and one of their best weapons was Savage's classmate, Mohamed Sanu. Their development -- and particularly Sanu's added spark as a runner out of the Wildcat formation -- helped a rudimentary offense find its legs.
In Central Florida, Rutgers finds a team that's capable of scoring in bunches -- the Golden Knights averaged 40 points in their last three games, including a win over Houston. But Greg Schiano's array of confusing blitz schemes can often rattle players and teams who haven't seen it before. Central Florida will have less than two weeks to prepare for it.
The short turnaround also throws into question whether Rutgers wideout Tim Brown -- one of the Big East's best receivers and the team's lone true deep threat -- will be ready in time. Brown re-aggravated a sprained left ankle on Saturday against West Virginia and was not able to contribute. Without him, the Scarlet Knights may have to rely on their special teams and defense to help out in the scoring department, something that's happened with great frequency this season.
Central Florida take by Independents and others blogger Graham Watson: Central Florida was hoping rival South Florida would be in this bowl, but the No. 4 team in the Big East will present a nice challenge.
This will be a defensive matchup since both teams don’t allow many points and neither team’s offense has been lighting up the scoreboard this season. However, Central Florida comes into this game beaming with confidence after finishing the regular season with eight wins, four more than a year ago. The offense, which was last in the country in 2008, has been much better with quarterback Brett Hodges and running back Brynn Harvey.
But the strength of the Knights is their front seven and their rush defense. The Knights are allowing just 82.50 rushing yards per game and have given up just 10 rushing touchdowns. UCF also ranks fifth in the country with more than three sacks per game. Both of those statistics give the Knights an advantage in the game considering Rutgers allows more than three sacks per game and its running game is generating less than 140 yards of offense.
Rutgers does have similar defensive stats, which should make this game a grind. Expect a low scoring game and probably a lot of turnovers.