college football picks Rutgers at FIU 9-11-10

September 10, 2010


DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 11th, 8:00 p.m. (et)

FACTS & STATS: Site: FIU Stadium (17,000) — Miami, Florida. Television:ESPN-Plus. Home Record: Rutgers 1-0, FIU 0-0. Away Record: Rutgers 0-0, FIU 0-0. Neutral Record: Rutgers 0-0, FIU 0-0. Conference Record: Rutgers 0-0, FIU 0-0. Series Record: Rutgers leads, 1-0.

GAME NOTES: The Florida International Golden Panthers kick off their 2010 campaign this weekend, as they host the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in non-league play at FIU Stadium.

Since the program was initiated in 2002, FIU has yet to post a winning record, although it has made strides. Head coach Mario Cristobal enters his fourth year with the program and he is hoping the Panthers can make history in ’10. However, with just a handful of starters back from last year’s 3-9 club, a winning record isn’t likely.

As for Rutgers, it began the 2010 season on September 2nd with a 31-0 blanking of Norfolk State, a FCS program. It was the first season-opening shutout for the Knights since 1979, as they improved to 6-4 in lidlifters under head coach Greg Schiano.

The Knights and Panthers met for the first-ever time on the gridiron last season, a game won by Rutgers, 23-15, in New Jersey.

Despite racking up 422 total yards, Rutgers managed only two offensive TDs against a much lesser opponent in Norfolk State. The Knights, who were held to just six first-half points, were paced by a ground attack that rolled up 268 yards behind a 5.4 yard per carry average. Joe Martinek led the charge with 109 yards and a score on 20 carries, marking the fifth 100-yard rushing effort of his career. QB Tom Savage threw for 148 yards and a score on 10-of-19 tosses, while Mohamed Sanu caught three balls for 65 yards and a TD. Both Savage and Sanu started as freshmen last season, so expectations are high for both players in ’10.

Rutgers, which has now recorded a shutout in five straight seasons, was sensational on defense in the opener. The unit held Norfolk State to a mere 156 total yards, including just 25 rushing, while permitting only seven first downs. The Knights didn’t allow a single conversion on 12 third-down chances, although the unit only came up with one turnover and two sacks. Alex Silvestro caused all sorts of havoc up front and finished the night with four TFLs and a sack.

The Panthers have a couple of options at QB and don’t be surprised to see both Wesley Carroll and Wayne Younger under center at different points of the season. Carroll, a Mississippi State transfer, has the experience and talent to make this offense go, while Younger has been a backup since he started in ’07. The top option for either QB will be T.Y. Hilton, who led the team with 57 catches and 632 yards despite being limited by a knee injury last season. The ground attack has several options, but none that are proven.

FIU was just dreadful on the defensive side of the ball in ’09, ranking 119th after allowing 491.6 total ypg. With no place to go but up, expect the Panthers to be improved. Tourek Williams added 25 pounds since last season and the end is expected to make a big impact after registering a sack and five TFLs as a true freshman in ’09. The linebacking corps is highlighted by the return of Toronto Smith, who racked up 50 stops, including a team-high nine for loss, last season. The secondary is the most experienced part of the defense, as corner Anthony Gaitor (45 tackles, two INTs) and safety Jonathan Cyprien (78 stops) are both welcomed back.

The Knights simply possess the better talent and their defense should once again dominate, while their offense does a better job of putting points on the board this weekend.

FREE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICKS : Rutgers 31, Florida International 17

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