Tale Of the Tape | Rutgers At Cincinnati

Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

This is an overly quantitative look at tomorrows match up between Rutgers and Cincinnati

Cincinnati Offense Rutgers Defense
Yards Per Rush 5.6 3.1
Yards Per Pass Attempt 8.0 6.6
Yards Per Play 6.6 4.7
3rd Down Conversions 46.3 38.4
Plays Per Point 2 4.7

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights have had the best defense in the Big East for two seasons, each of the last two seasons. As such the Scarlet Knights will provide the stiffest test of the season to the Bearcats offense which is, as of this moment, on pace to set a school record for total yards, surpassing the 2009 offense, which I thought had set a bar that was unreachable. But, as prolific as the Bearcats have been, Rutgers, and Connecticut to finish the season, will prove to be the toughest tests of the season for this surprisingly balanced offense.

The 4.7 PPP is a number that really jumps out at me. For some context Florida State currently leads the country in total defense, (yes even ahead of recently felled Alabama), and they allow a point every 5 plays. 4.7 is flirting with elite, and is the hall mark of an efficient defense.

If there is something that the Bearcats can exploit from the Scarlet Knight's statistical profile it might just be getting into advantageous third down situations. Rutgers has trouble getting off the field on third downs with consistency, in part because they aren't consistently disruptive, particularly up front. Of their top 10 players in TFL's only three play defensive line. Their blitzes are very effective when they choose to bring pressure, but they struggle to affect offenses with the play of their defensive line alone.

Rutgers has a tremendous defense, but I don't think this year's defense is playing as well as their defense did last season. It is many of the same players but, for whatever reason, they aren't dominating games like they did last season. Its a defense that UC should be able to move the ball on, provided they stay ahead of schedule consistently.

Rutgers Offense Cincinnati Defense
Yards Per Rush 3.9 3.8
Yards Per Pass Attempt 7.3 6.5
Yards Per Play 5.5 5.2
3rd Down Conversions 37.7 36.7
Plays Per Point 2.4 3.8

Looking at the Rutgers offense in a vacuum it is hard to tell how a team with these kind of efficiency numbers would be sitting at 8-1. But this offense is attached to their formidable defense, which serves to increase the margin of error by, conservatively, 1,000 per cent. Still, this offense is really, really bad. Rutgers has not topped 300 yards in game against a defense that ranks in the top 50 in yards per play allowed this season. And they are now coming off a game in which they gained 252 yards against any Army defense that is 114th in yards per play allowed.

In a lot of respects the Rutgers offense has much in common with the Temple offense. As a group, they have to play from standard downs* to have a chance. If they get behind schedule bad things happen. That is when they must rely on Gary Nova to complete passes, beyond the sticks, on third downs. Nova completes at a decent rate, completing 74 percent on third downs with 7-9 yards to go, and 56.7 on third and 10+. But, his conversion rate for keeping drives alive is pretty low; 39 per cent on third and 7-9 and 27 per cent on 3rd and 10+. Those numbers are on par with Munchie Leguax's situational stats.

The formula to stop Rutgers is pretty simple, but I still have doubts about the Bearcats defensive line, and its ability to put Rutgers behind schedule. Particularly when Rutgers has a very talented group up front. Like UC's group they rank in the top 25 in tackles for loss and sacks allowed. UC is facing that front coming off the first game without a sack in 14 months. If the defensive line can't impact this game Rutgers can compress the game by running a ton of clock, thereby keeping their defense fresh, and the Bearcats offense off the field. This game might just turn on how the Bearcats defense performs on first downs.

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