TAMPA, Fla. -- It probably has not been lost on many that Rutgers plays its first Big East game of the season in the stadium where its former coach just won his first NFL game.
Greg Schiano may not be the head coach at Rutgers anymore, but his presence will still be felt Thursday night. He built this team and this defense and helped transform linebacker Khaseem Greene from a good safety to a linebacker stud.
When Schiano bolted for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in January, the timing was terrible. But his players seemed to understand he had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to coach in the NFL. If they had any hard feelings about his departure, they never said anything.
Mainly, they all seemed thrilled with new head coach Kyle Flood, a lifelong assistant who has his first head-coaching opportunity.
Make no mistake: All eyes will be on Flood because of the importance of this game. Rutgers has gone 5-2 all-time against South Florida, all under Schiano. A win makes Flood the fourth coach in school history to start 3-0. The last was John Bateman in 1960.
Headed into this game, Rutgers has not played consistently enough on offense, and penalties are a huge concern. The Scarlet Knights are one of the most penalized teams in the nation, with 20 for 164 yards in two games. After committing 11 last week against Howard, Flood said, "We're certainly going to address it. No doubt."
Rutgers cannot afford to be undisciplined tonight, not with an early lead in the Big East on the line.
One other factor that could play into this game: The Scarlet Knights may be the fresher team after playing Howard at home Saturday. USF went down to the wire against Nevada and then had a long trip home with some sore and tired players.
And for those wondering, Schiano will be at the game.