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Cincinnati Bearcats At Rutgers: Keys To The Game

The key match ups to watch for this coming afternoon's game with Rutgers.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Stay In Ace

This has been a key before, and it is once again against Rutgers. While the Scarlet Knights are thin along the interior of the line with Sophomore Sensation Darius Hamilton expected to be out, it would be fools gold to try to attack Rutgers in the interior. The Knights are every bit as good as Memphis was against the run. Even though they are depleted up front because of injury their run defense is still the unquestioned strength of the defense.

It should be Eddie Gran's goal to get Rutgers out of their base looks, and the best way to do that is to put four receivers on the field. That should, in theory, force their hand into playing nickel rather than their traditional 4-3. With Shaq Washington and Anthony McClung that is an area of the field where they can win. The Ace looks also allow the Bearcats to run far more effectively than when the Bearcats try to go big.

Closely Monitor Paul James

James was the nations leading rusher when he was injured in the Arkansas game. It is doubtful that he will come back and perform at the level he was at before. But Rutgers has really struggled without him, particularly in obvious rushing situations. Situations which were, once upon a time, the unquestioned strength of the Rutgers offense. If James gives them some pop it will make the play action passing game more effective for Gary Nova. If the running game is not there it will put the burden of the offense on Nova's shoulders. Broad as they are they can't quite hold the offense up.

Keep The Gary Nova Turnover Train Rolling

Through the first five games of the season it seemed like Gary Nova had finally, and definitively turned the corner. His completion rate was up, way up actually. Ditto for yards per attempt and his QB rating. His interception rate was a minuscule 3 percent. In the three games since his interception rate has nearly tripled to 8.5 percent, and his completion percentage and QB rating has plummeted to depths not seen since his freshman season. He got on the right track against Temple's abysmal secondary, but it remains to be seen if Nova has exited his slump for good, or received a one game reprieve courtesy of the nations 110th ranked pass defense.

As good as the Bearcats defense has been on paper, they have not been able to generate turnovers with any consistency this season. Part of that is the way the Bearcats choose to cover, by playing safe and generally not risking big plays with tight coverage. It has worked to some degree as the Bearcats have only allowed 24 passes of longer than 20 yards. UC played very loose last week against SMU, for good reason. But there is much less to fear from this Rutgers passing game. Tightening up the coverage to generate more difficult throws for Nova would seem to be an ideal approach.

Missing: Silveryberry Mouhon

In the two games since his masterful two sack performance against UConn Mouhon has come up with zero tackles for loss or sacks in games against Memphis and SMU and just two tackles in total. He was completely shutout against SMU registering just a single hurry. Rutgers has struggled with pass protection for years, producing one of the worst sack rates in recent memory during the 2010 season.

This is a group that gave up 8 sacks to Louisville, and has allowed 24 on the season, good for 97th in the country. They have quite a few converted defensive linemen who have major issues blocking in space. This is, in other words, the perfect offensive line to get Mouhon back on track in time for the Houston and Louisville games where the Bearcats ability to get, or not get, pressure on the passer will go a long way in determining the outcome of the game. Lets hope that Rutgers is the cure for what ails Silverberry.

<h4>More from Down The Drive:</h4>
<li><a href="">Guest Spot: On The Banks</a></li>
<li><a href="">The Layup Line: Appalachian State</a></li>
<li><a href="">Rutgers Scarlet Knights Statistical Profile</a></li>
<li><a href="">Bearcat Links of The Day; T-Minus 28 Hours To Kickoff</a></li>
<li><a href="">Bearcat Links Of The Day; Gearing Up For Rutgers</a></li>