Football Bowl Subdivision

         === Big East action pits Panthers against Scarlet Knights ===
 Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - The No. 21 Rutgers Scarlet Knights set out
 to keep their perfect conference record intact when they battle the Pittsburgh
 Panthers at Heinz Field on Saturday afternoon.
 Although Louisville is ranked higher in the polls, Rutgers is leading the
 Big East right now with a 5-0 mark against league foes. It is the first 5-0
 record the Scarlet Knights have had in Big East play in school history. The
 Scarlet Knights are also a stellar 9-1 overall with the only loss a 35-23
 setback at home to Kent State, who has since moved into the national rankings.
 The Scarlet Knights will take on Louisville next weekend which could decide
 the Big East championship if both teams stay the course.
 Pittsburgh is playing for its postseason life in this matchup. The Panthers
 have lost two straight games and are now just 4-6 overall and in need of wins
 in each of its final two games to get the sixth win that would make the team
 bowl eligible. In terms of conference play, Pittsburgh has not had a great
 deal of success with just one win in five tries this season.
 If history has anything to say about this game then Pittsburgh will be in good
 shape. In 29 previous meetings the Panthers have earned victories in 21
 contests, although Rutgers has won five the last seven matchups, including a
 34-10 triumph last season.
 Lead rusher Jawan Jamison should be back this week for Rutgers. In his absence
 the Scarlet Knights still leaned heavily on the run game with Savon Huggins
 filling in and racking up 179 yards on 41 carries in a 10-3 win over
 Cincinnati. Still getting Jamison back (990 yards, 4 TDs) will be big and with
 Huggins waiting in the wings, the Scarlet Knights will more than likely pound
 the ball for most of the game.
 "I think they make a good complement because they're both high-level players,"
 head coach Kyle Flood said of the duo. " What makes them complementary backs
 is they're both capable of having a good day, and it allows you to keep a
 fresh running back in the game all the time."
 When they're not running the ball the Scarlet Knights will put the ball in the
 hands of Gary Nova. The Rutgers quarterback has slowed down the stretch and
 has been especially prone to turning the ball over in recent weeks. Nova has
 thrown 10 of his 12 interceptions this season in the last four games and has
 not had more than 200 yards passing in back-to-back weeks. Overall, Nova has
 thrown for 2,125 yards and 19 touchdowns, while completing 61.1 percent of his
 pass attempts.
 There is size and skill in the receiving corps especially in the person of
 Brandon Coleman. The 6-foot-6 wideout has hauled in 36 passes for 552 yards
 and has been a favorite target near the red zone with eight touchdown
 receptions. Mark Harrison (34 receptions, 403 yards, 5 TDs) and Tim Wright (29
 receptions, 356 yards, 2 TDs) have also been bringing in receptions fairly
 regularly, although Wright has just two receptions in the last two games.
 It really hasn't mattered what Rutgers has done on offense because of how good
 the defense has been. The Scarlet Knights haven't just been the top team in
 the Big East in total defense (312.6 ypg) but also rank 14th nationally in the
 category, while also stifling opposing offenses to the fourth-lowest point
 total (12.4 ppg). That puts Rutgers in the same rarified air as such
 ballyhooed defensive squads as Alabama and Notre Dame.
 At the center of all of the Rutgers' defensive efforts is linebacker Khaseem
 Greene. The senior has been sensational this season and after racking up 11
 tackles and a pair of sacks last week, earned his third Big East Defensive
 Player of the Week award. Greene has been an absolute beast all season,
 racking up impressive numbers across the board in tackles (107), tackles for
 loss (9.0) and sacks (5.5), while also forcing six fumbles and collecting a
 pair of interceptions.
 For how good Greene has been, Flood still thinks Greene's best days are ahead
 of him.
 "The more he plays linebacker, the better he's going to get.  I don't think
 he's anywhere near where he's going to be a couple of years from now," Flood
 Traditionally a school that runs the ball a great deal, Pittsburgh has been
 more of a passing team this season. The Panthers are averaging 271.8 yards per
 game through the air which is the third best mark in the conference.
 Senior quarterback Tino Sunseri has been the steady hand that has kept the
 Panthers humming. Sunseri has completed an impressive 67.3 percent of his pass
 attempts for 2,665 yards and 16 touchdowns. Perhaps what has been most
 important is Sunseri's ability to keep his mistakes to a minimum as he has
 been picked off only twice this season.
 Lining up with Sunseri in the backfield is talented, though less productive
 than expected, Ray Graham. The running back has amassed a team-best 1,125
 total yards from scrimmage this season. Graham gets it done on the ground (835
 yards, 8 TDs) primarily, but has also been a weapon in the passing game (31
 receptions, 290 yards, 2 TDs).
 The Panthers have been able to rely more on the passing game thanks to strong
 efforts on the outside from receivers Devin Street and Mike Shanahan. Street
 is the really star (59 receptions, 806 yards, 4 TDs) as he is the second-most
 productive receiver in the conference this season but Shanahan (44 receptions,
 748 yards, 4 TDs) has also been racking up the yards and receptions. No other
 player on the squad has more than 20 receptions.
 Overall Pittsburgh is squarely in the middle of the Big East in both scoring
 (27.5 ppg) and total offense (411.3 ypg). The Panthers are also one of four
 teams in the Big East picking up more than 400 yards of total offense per
 Like the offense, the Panthers' defense is right in the middle of the pack,
 ranking fourth in both scoring (22.7 ppg) and total defense (358.6 ypg) but
 the conference's second best turnover margin (+8) has kept Pittsburgh
 competitive. THowever that has been more a symptom of the offense's discipline
 than the defense's play making as the Panthers have forced just 15 turnovers.
 The defense could be even worse off with lead tackler Jason Hendricks (67
 tackles, 4 INTs) listed as questionable with an undisclosed issue. Jarred
 Holley (61 tackles) is the team's second best stopper, while Aaron Donald
 (11.5 TFLs, 3.5 sacks) has been one of very few bright spots up front in terms
 of getting into the backfield.
 11/21 11:35:27 ET

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