Sunday, December 4, 2011
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
By Andrea Adelson and David Ubben
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (8-4) vs. Iowa State Cyclones (6-6)
Dec. 30, 3:20 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Rutgers take from Big East blogger Andrea Adelson: You understand why there might not be a joyous celebration among Scarlet Knights fans today, despite a terrific turnaround from 4-8 last season to 8-4 and bowl team this season. Rutgers had a chance to clinch a share of their first Big East title in the regular-season finale. All they had to do was beat a UConn team with a losing record. But the Scarlet Knights had one mistake after another and lost 40-22, ending the season on a sour note. Still, that should not take away what was accomplished this year. After being selected in the preseason to finish last in the conference, Rutgers went 4-3 in Big East play -- posting a winning league record for the first time since 2008. Receiver Mohamed Sanu showed everybody just how special he is, shattering school and Big East single-season records with 109 receptions. Sixty-five of his 109 receptions have been for first downs, the second-highest total nationally. The defense, which featured significant player position changes, finished as the No. 1 group in the Big East. Khaseem Greene, moved from safety to middle linebacker, led the league with 127 tackles and is a leading candidate for Big East Defensive Player of the Year. There have been a few hiccups – coach Greg Schiano switched quarterbacks in the middle of the season, going with true freshman Gary Nova over starter Chas Dodd. But he went back to Dodd in the fourth quarter against USF, and he rallied the team to a win. Nova relieved Dodd against UConn, so it is uncertain who will start the bowl game. The offensive line was better, but the run game was not, averaging 2.6 yard per carry and 91.5 yards per game. Still, Rutgers made enough improvement this season that it was a Big East contender, and is now back in a bowl for the sixth time in seven seasons.
Iowa State take from Big 12 blogger David Ubben: If there's one thing we know by now, it's that coach Paul Rhoads is SO PROUD of his team this season. The Cyclones are the biggest overachievers in the country. Favored in just two games, Iowa State scrapped its way to six wins and a second bowl game in three years under Rhoads. That stretch included a 3-0 start with fourth-quarter comebacks in each, including a win over rival Iowa. The Cyclones also played giant killer and handed Big 12 champion Oklahoma State its only loss. Midway through the season, the spectacularly named Steele Jantz was sent to the bench for redshirt freshman Jared Barnett, who helped spark a late-season run when the Cyclones beat Texas Tech, Kansas and Oklahoma State in Barnett's first three starts. Despite a loss to Oklahoma the following week, the Cyclones led the Big 12 in scoring defense over that stretch. There's nobody in the Big 12, except perhaps Kansas State, that does more with "team" than the Cyclones. Not many outstanding talents, but they play a physical brand of football and under Barnett, have played it much closer to the vest. The results have been ideal.