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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 1st, 8:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Louisiana Superdome (69,703) -- New Orleans, Louisiana. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: Rutgers 0-0, Tulane 0-0. Away Record: Rutgers 0-0, Tulane 0-0. Neutral Record: Rutgers 0-0, Tulane 0-0. Conference Record: Rutgers 0-0, Tulane 0-0. Series Record: Rutgers leads, 3-2.
GAME NOTES: With the threat of Hurricane Isaac hanging over it, the Tulane Green Wave will welcome in the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Saturday night in what is one of only two matchups that put two new head coaches against each other this opening weekend.
Greg Schiano enjoyed a very strong career as the head coach at Rutgers. He got the Scarlet Knights to six bowl games and into the national rankings three times. Schiano is now the head man for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL. Taking over for him is former offensive line coach Kyle Flood. Flood was part of the coaching staff that last year pushed the Scarlet Knights to a 9-4 overall record, including a 27-13 win in the Pinstripe Bowl over Iowa State.
The Bob Toledo era came to an end last season for Tulane in a much less successful manner. The former head coach went 15-40 in four plus seasons in New Orleans, opening the door for Curtis Johnson. Last season the Green Wave started out 2-5 under Toledo, leading to his departure. Interim head coach Mark Hutson didn't turn things around, as the Green Wave ended the season with six straight losses.
Although Rutgers holds a 3-2 edge in the all-time series, Tulane has won the last two contests between the teams, both coming on the road. Tulane has never beaten Rutgers at home.
One of the most important decisions Flood had to make after taking the head coaching gig at Rutgers was who to start at quarterback. Flood finally made that decision late in camp surprisingly taking sophomore Gary Nova over the more seasoned Chas Dodd.
Nova just about mirrored Dodd's production last season, throwing for 1,553 yards, 10 scores and seven picks in three fewer starts last season. This time around it will be Nova's chance to prove he deserves to the No. 1 option for new offensive coordinator Dave Brock, the third coordinator in as many years.
The offensive line is retooling but with Flood leading the way, it should be able to get up to speed quickly. Kaleb Johnson was a Freshman All-American last season and will switch from right to left tackle, while guard David Osei is the only other returning senior. Also improving things will be Maryland transfer R.J. Dill.
At the skill positions Rutgers has solid, if not exciting, talent. Jawan Jamison will return as the starter at running back after compiling 897 yards and nine touchdowns a year ago. The receiving corps will really miss star Mohamed Sanu, as Brandon Coleman (17 receptions, 552 yards) had the most productive season amongst the returners.
Defense is an area where Rutgers has very little concern. The squad returns seven starters from a unit that ranked 14th nationally (314.2 ypg) in total defense.
Rutgers has a all-conference linebacker leading the charge in senior Khaseem Greene, who was a force last season racking up 141 total tackles and 14.5 tackles for loss, both team highs. For his efforts, Greene was named 2011 Co- Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Steve Beauharnais (77 total tackles, 5.0 sacks), Jamal Merrell (44 total tackles) and Kevin Snyder (40 total tackles) make this unit one of the deepest around.
The secondary also has talent with the return of All-Big East cornerback Logan Ryan and safety Duron Harmon. The defensive line was a weak point last year struggling to get pressure on opposing teams. Michael Larrow and Scott Vallone are the most experienced returners but combined for four sacks last season.
On offense Tulane is blessed with the return of two of its most valuable weapons at running back and wide receiver. Orleans Darkwa is the team's leading returning rusher for a team that averaged 126.3 yards per game on the ground last season. Darkwa rushed for 924 yards and has a real nose for the end zone, scoring 24 times in his first two seasons at Tulane.
Although his numbers were not stellar due to a hamstring injury, Tulane also has talented receiver Ryan Grant back on the outside. Grant was on the 2011 Biletnikoff Award Watch List before injuries limited his time. Wilson Van Hooser (36 receptions, 487 yards) is the teams leading returning pass-catcher.
Who Grant and Van Hooser will be catching balls from will also be the same, as Ryan Griffin again steps in as starting quarterback. Griffin completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 2,502 yards, 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season.
At 2-11, Tulane did not do very well in terms of limiting other teams in scoring last season, ranking 115th nationally (37.5 ppg). From that unit only five starters return. Jon Sumrall and Lionel Washington were brought in as co-defensive coordinators to hopefully improve on that.
All-Conference USA First-Team linebacker Trent Mackey (145 tackles, 14 tackles for loss) will be the centerpiece around which Sumrall and Washington build their defense. Mackey was selected as tce star quarterback Ryan Lindley this season. Former Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz transferred in January. Katz threw for 2,737 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in his career with Oregon State, with only one year as the full-time starter.
Not only did the offense lose its star quarterback but also its workhouse running back. Set to fill the shoes left by Ronnie Hillman is sophomore Adam Muema, who rushed for 253 yards and a 6.0 yards-per-carry average as a backup last season.
Where the Aztecs do have consistency from last season is in the receiving corps. Junior wideouts Colin Lockett (58 receptions, 970 yards, eight TDs) and Dylan Denso (49 receptions, 634 yards) will each return, as will tight end Gavin Escobar whoe offensive line has a pair of returning starters but there is there including how well converted tight end Bryce Quigley will adjust at left tackle.
On defense the Aztecs will need to retool at a number of spots. Only three starters return from last season's unit that ranked 68th nationally (391.2 ypg) in total defense.
The defensive line is an especially troubling area where there is no returning starter and a pair of sophomores set to take on major starting roles.
At linebacker, Jake Fely is the lone returning starter after a strong freshman season when he recorded 58 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss.
The secondary may be the most experienced unit but that's only because it has two of the three returning starters. Safety Nate Berhe and cornerback Leon McFadden are the holdovers. McFadden recorded 46 total tackles and nabbed a pair of interceptions while Berhe was the better tackler (67).
The Huskies are a young team up and down the roster but with its youth, Washington also has a great deal of talent. That begins with sophomore quarterback Keith Price who played beyond his years last season as a freshmen. Price completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 3,063 yards and 33 touchdowns and was one of the best quarterbacks in a conference that included Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley.
Although star running back Chris Polk is gone, the skill positions have some strong replacements. Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey are a nice tandem to replace Polk. Kasen Williams and James Johnson are both big receivers that can make plays down field. Williams caught 36 passes for 427 yards and six scores last season.
The best returning starter other than Price is tight end Austin Seferian- Jenkins who is a skilled receiver. The sophomore caught 40 passes for 544 yards and six touchdowns last season and will be one of Price's favorite targets in 2012.
The offensive line has three returning starters led by senior center Drew Schaefer. Whether or not sophomores Micah Hatchie and Ben Riva can fill in at the tackle spots will go a long way in determining how well the offense does.
Washington will have a new defensive coordinator this season. Justin Wilcox was hired from Tennessee and will be trying out a 3-4 system to slow the prolific offenses of the Pac-12.
The secondary will be the strength led by senior cornerback Desmond Trufant and junior strong safety Sean Parker. Trufant had 64 total tackles last season and also nabbed two picks. Parker was even better with 91 tackles and four interceptions. The Huskies also have high hopes for touted recruit Shaquille Thompson.
At linebacker, John Timu and Princeton Fuimaono are the returning starters. Up front the Huskies are less solid in terms of starting experience. Defensive end Josh Shirley (12.0 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks) is an effective pass rusher but will be flanked by others with less experience.
With talent up and down the roster, Washington is a dark horse in the Pac-12 and has its hopes set pretty high entering 2012. San Diego State will be the first test for the Huskies who have to avoid looking beyond to a date with LSU in week two. That shouldn't be too much of an issue for a Washington offense that is led by a top-tier quarterback and a defense that has enough playmakers to get a win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Washington 38, San Diego State 20
08/31 10:32:55 ET
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