Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Minnesota Golden Gophers (-21)
This is proving to be a banner year for the Big Ten with four teams ranked inside the top-ten nationally. But don’t go bragging about that to Rutgers (2-5, 0-3 Big Ten), who have been on the receiving end of some beatdowns by those top teams. This weekend, they’ll get to face a team that’s a little closer to their level when they visit Minnesota (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis (Saturday, Oct. 22, 12:00 PM Eastern).
After playing Iowa close to open their conference slate (14-7, home), the Scarlet Knights were blanked in back-to-back weeks by no. 2 Ohio State (58-0, road) and no. 4 Michigan (78-0, home). The defense was a little better, but the offensive woes continued last weekend in a 24-7 setback at home to Illinois.
It’s a good thing the Knights got a couple Ws in non-conference play (52-14 over Howard; 37-28 over New Mexico), otherwise they’d be staring down the barrel of a winless season. They’ll be big dogs in all five of their remaining games.
The team is pretty abysmal in all facets of the game, ranking 119th nationally in scoring defense (37.7 PPG) and 109th in offense (23.2 PPG) while averaging under 300 yards per game.
The team will look to augment its offense with a QB switch this weekend. Junior Giovanni Rescigno (10/18, 120 yards, one TD, one INT) will take over for senior Chris Laviano (70/145, 748 yards, five TDs, two INTs). Rescigno, who has a 42-yard TD scamper to his credit, will provide more of a dual-threat. (Though it’s a stretch to use the word “threat” anywhere near this Rutgers offense.)
Minnesota got off the conference scheid last week with a convincing 31-10 road win over Maryland. That followed disappointing setbacks to Penn State (29-26, road) and Iowa (14-7, home).
The Gopher defense was all-world against the Terps, shutting them out until the fourth quarter and giving up just 291 total yards. The offense did enough, thanks to a big day from RB Rodney Smith (144 yards, two TDs on 18 carries). First-time starter Conor Rhoda wasn’t asked to do much (7/15, 82 yards, one TD), but managed the game well.
Rutgers hasn’t been good anywhere, but the road has been particularly rough. The team has only played two other road games this year, which it’s lost by a combined score of 106-13. Granted, those games were against two teams that are now in the top-five (Ohio State and Washington), and the Gophers aren’t anywhere close to that level; but they’re still a much more talented team than the Knights, especially on defense, and will keep the impotent Rutgers offense in check.
And by “in check,” I really mean off the board entirely. So I like the Gophers to cover, even though it’s a massive spread.
Pick: Minnesota (-21)
Photo credit: A Syn [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.