Rutgers vs. Purdue: What to watch for
The Rutgers football team will look to make it two Big Ten wins in a row when it takes on Purdue in its Homecoming game this Saturday. The Scarlet Knights (2-4, 1-2) are coming off a 35-24 road win over Illinois where they rushed for 274 yards and 5 touchdowns in a dominating performance.
The Boilermakers (3-3, 1-2) are coming off a hard-fought 17-9 loss against then-No. 7 Wisconsin and are much improved from a year ago when the team went 3-9 and had just one Big Ten victory — a 34-31 overtime win over Illinois. Here is what to watch for when the two teams face off at noon on Saturday.
How will the quarterback position play out?
Head coach Chris Ash announced that junior Giovanni Rescigno would be the starter going forward, despite him suffering a knee injury against the Illini. Ash also admitted true freshman Johnathan Lewis was banged up a week ago, hence why he did not see any playing time when Rescigno was healthy. Lewis has played extensively in the team's last two home games and should see more time against Purdue. It will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Jerry Kill rotates the two of them if Rescigno is able to run and make plays outside of the pocket.
Can the offensive line continue the momentum?
The offensive line flat out dominated a week ago and Purdue's rushing defense ranks 13th out of 14 teams in the Big Ten. While the Boilermakers have played arguably tougher competition than the Knights so far, that is still not a strength of the team. After paving the way for 274 yards in its last game, the line is playing with loads of confidence. Redshirt freshman center Michael Maietti had a very strong game filling in for Jonah Jackson and when Jackson gets healthy, he will likely slide over to right guard with the way Maietti has performed. If the guys up front control the tempo of the game, it can keep Purdue's pass-happy offense off the field and put Rutgers in a position to win.
How will the Rutgers secondary hold up against Purdue's passing attack?
It is no secret that Purdue will try to throw the ball all over the field against Rutgers. While the Boilermakers have played both Elijah Sindelar and David Blough this season, Sindelar played the majority of the game against Wisconsin and has thrown for more yards on the season. As a team, Purdue has thrown for 1,481 yards and 13 touchdowns, while the Knights have just 848 yards and 4 touchdowns, to go along with eight interceptions. Cornerback Damon Hayes struggled against Illinois and will likely be targeted a lot on Saturday. Safety Kiy Hester should be healthy and return to the starting lineup, but he will likely be playing next to K.J. Gray, who will be making his second career start in place of Saquan Hampton. This game will be a huge test for the Scarlet Knights.
Can Chris Ash win a big game at home?
Despite Purdue not being a household name, this is a very big game for Rutgers. Both teams were abysmal last year and Ash needs to prove his team has taken a legitimate step forward. There is no denying that Illinois is the worst team in the Big Ten and the Boilermakers present a much bigger challenge. They are in similar stages of their respective rebuilds and this contest offers a good measuring stick for where the program is.