Pinstripe Bowl preview: Notre Dame vs. Rutgers
Notre Dame (8-4) vs. Rutgers (6-6, 3-5 AAC)
December 28, 12:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Notre Dame Players to Watch:
T.J. Jones, WR—The Irish like to spread the ball around, but there’s not a more talented wideout on the roster than Jones. He has five 100-yard receiving games and has scored a touchdown in nine different appearances.
Steve Elmer, RG—Freshman Steve Elmer replaced starting right guard Christian Lombard earlier in the season and has done an excellent job in his place, but will have a huge challenge in facing the nation’s No. 25 pass rush.
Rutgers Players to Watch:
Chas Dodd, QB—Dodd replaced the interception-prone Gary Nova with two games left and went 19-of-24 for 179 yards and two touchdowns (no picks) in a bowl-clinching win over South Florida to end the regular season.
Brandon Coleman, WR—If you like scouting NFL talent, you won’t have to look elsewhere. Coleman’s numbers aren’t anywhere near where he’d like them to be, but quarterback play hasn’t been a strength for Rutgers this year. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound athletic freak could have a big game with many next-level eyes on him.
Notre Dame Key to Victory:
Clean play by Tommy Rees. Notre Dame is 1-4 when Rees throws multiple interceptions in a game, and the one win came in a close 38-34 battle at home over Navy. Rees has struggled down the stretch, completing just 50.4 percent of his passes with seven picks in his last four games. However, Rutgers’ secondary is extremely thin and has been ripped to shreds by lackluster AAC competition, ranking 120th overall in passing yards allowed (311.4 per game). The Irish are simply more talented on offense, so Rees should be set up for a solid final game as a collegiate.
Rutgers Key to Victory:
Limit big plays on defense. Notre Dame likes to spread the ball around—three receivers have at least five touchdowns, and the combination of Jones, DaVaris Daniels, and Troy Niklas combine for an average of 15.7 yards per reception. Rutgers’ secondary has been completely decimated by injury, forcing it to play inexperienced freshmen that are susceptible to coverage breakdowns. If the Scarlet Knights can do a good job keeping everything in front of them and limiting big gains, they’ll have a better chance of making Rees impatient.
Line: Notre Dame (-14)
Prediction: Rutgers may or may not have deserved a postseason appearance after losing five of its final seven games by an average of 24.4 points. Notre Dame may have lost both its offensive and defensive coordinators to head coaching positions, but the Irish should win this one by just being better than Rutgers.
Notre Dame 35, Rutgers 14
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