College Bowl Preview (Part II)

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New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview:

Nov 30, 2013; Stanford, CA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Tommy Rees (11) passes the ball against the Stanford Cardinal during the second quarter at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 edition of the Fighting Irish was a far cry from the 2012 team that was one win shy of winning the BCS National Championship, but head coach Brian Kelly did not let Notre Dame fall to far from the top.  After losing QB Everett Golson to academics and tight end Tyler Eifert, running backs Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick, as well as defensive captain Manti Te’o to the NFL, Notre Dame did a remarkable job, winning 8 games.

The Fighting Irish posted a season of contradictions, play well, become over-confident, lose, then play well again.  All of that added up to an 8-4 record heading into the Pinstripe Bowl.  Notre Dame defeated teams like Michigan State, Arizona State, and USC, but  lost to Michigan, Oklahoma, and Pitt.  The Irish would like nothing more than to cap off this season with a win over Rutgers.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights Preview:

Dec 7, 2013; Piscataway, NJ, USA; South Florida Bulls quarterback Mike White (14) is sacked by Rutgers Scarlet Knights defensive end Marcus Thompson (48) in the second half at High Points Solutions Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

In their last season in the old Big East (American Athletic Conference) before joining the Big Ten, the Scarlet Knights needed a win over South Florida in their season finale in order to become bowl eligible.  They got the win and their reward…a trip to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl to face Notre Dame.

The Scarlet Knights started the season with a one-point loss to Mountain West champion Fresno State.  After the defeat, they reeled off for- straight wins to enter league play with a respectable 4-1 record.  It was during league play where the Scarlet Knights showed that they were going to struggle to stay near the top of the conference.  Lopsided losses against the league’s best teams, UCF, Houston, and Cincinnati as well as losses to Louisville and UConn had the Knights reeling.  Having lost five of their last six games, Rutgers entered the final week of the season needing a win over South Florida to become bowl eligible.  Head Coach Greg Flood’s squad may have played one of their finest games of the year in defeating the Bulls 31-6.

Bowl Outlook:

From outward appearances, this game would appear to be a mismatch.  It was one of Vegas’ largest point spreads of the bowl season (currently Notre Dame -14 pts), however Rutgers is virtually playing in their backyard and should look to have a large gathering at Yankee Stadium.  Notre Dame on the other hand, boasts one of the nation’s most loyal and rabid fan bases and travel quite well.  In fact, Notre Dame was extremely happy to be playing in a bowl game where so many of its NYC fans would be able to see them in person.

On the field, the Irish have too many weapons for a Rutgers team that has given up an average of 406 yards of offense including 311 yards per game through the air.  And, unfortunately for Rutgers, Notre Dame gets most of their yards by passing the ball.  Senior QB Tommy Rees, who averages nearly 245 yards passing per game and has thrown 27 TDs, should be able to find wideout TJ Jones early and often against the Scarlet Knights secondary.

This game could be ugly.  I say only a late touchdown put the spread in jeopardy in this game as Notre Dame breaks out early and coasts to any easy win.

Score:  Notre Dame  –  37     Rutgers  –  21

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