The TaxSlayer Gator Bowl is tomorrow, it’s happening even amid all the uncertainties college football has been through. To celebrate, I got to sit down with Aaron Breitman at OnTheBanks.com to give some information about the Big 10 opponent:
BSD: Elephant in the room: from what Greg Schiano told us, Rutgers going to play this game after a month of non-tackling and two days of training, what can we expect from this Rutgers team?
OTB: To be fair, it’s more like four practices. That being said, I publicly state that this whole situation for Rutgers is terrible and that they are doomed to fail. Of course they are not going to refuse and as competitors they think they can win this game. Honestly, I don’t see how they can.
They had their team awards banquet over two weeks ago, nearly ten players have started training for the NFL Draft process and a dozen more are in the portal. We don’t even know how many players have had playoff surgeries other than running back Kyle Monangai, but there are sure to be more.
Besides not playing or practicing actual football from a two-day period after Thanksgiving to a day after Christmas, this game on paper would be a major lag despite the unprecedented circumstances. Rutgers has averaged 14.0 points per game against ten power-five opponents this season. Even though the defense, who have performed well at times, limit Wake to below their season average, I see no way that RU could score enough to even be at distance in the game.
I expect Rutgers to play really hard as usual, but they’re not built to follow a high scoring offense or really equipped to come back from behind by multiple scores.
BSD: While we don’t know anything about how to unsubscribe for Rutgers, what are some names Wake fans should be looking for?
OTB: Noah Vedral will start at quarterback and is as tough as he gets. However, he is severely limited as a passer and although he can run for big wins, the offense lacks great playing ability. The highest rated QB in the program’s history is Gavin Wimsatt, who s’ is unexpectedly featured in September after dropping out of his senior season to sign a six-figure NIL deal. He only played three games, but his debut was just one game he converted to a fourth and five in the game-winning game against Illinois. Fans are hoping to see him play a lot at the Gator Bowl, but I’d be surprised if he did. However, if Rutgers falls behind by several scores, he should definitely play the rest of the way.
The two best offensive playmakers are wide receiver Bo Melton and running back Isaih Pacheco. Melton was no longer eligible and Pacheco declared himself for the NFL Draft shortly after the end of the regular season. Schiano did not confirm this week who was playing, especially players preparing for the NFL Draft. If neither of them is playing, Rutgers is in big trouble offensively. They are two better playmakers besides them are Aron Cruickshank and the aforementioned Monagai, both of which are operated and in rehab.
Julius Turner, the best defensive lineman, is a guy who is trying to get pro and who I expect to play. All-Big Ten linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi (O3) has missed the last few games due to injury and his status is unknown.
Johnny Langan is a true football player who has played the quarterback, converted to tight end, has a full set of shorts designed for him and could be a major factor in this game if it is tight.
Adam Korsak is the team’s MVP and inexplicably deprived himself of the Ray Guy award given to the country’s top bettor. He helped Rutgers set an NCAA record with a net punt average of 45.34 yards this season, had the most punters in the 20s, and hasn’t had a touchback since 2019 on top of that. of 120 attempts. These are literally the top three criteria cited by the Ray Guy Award and yet they dug the long ball by choosing Matt Araiza. Remember, it’s not the size of your leg that matters, it’s how you use it.
BSD: It’s easy to just look at a team and say ‘they’re 5-7, they suck’, but what has been going well for this Rutgers team this year?
OTB: Rutgers went 5-2 in winnable games against opponents they were better or about the same as this season. It is progress. Beating Syracuse on the road was a key win in Game 2 of the season and really ended their racing game. They crushed Indiana for the biggest margin of victory in a Big Ten game in program history and also beat Illinois among themselves, beating ranked enemies at Penn State and Minnesota.
It’s pretty simple, RU was 5-0 in matches, they didn’t commit any turnover. They also finished in the top 20 nationally for the fewest penalties per game. When they play football without mistakes, they have a chance.
They also kept Big Ten champion Michigan at their lowest point total (20) in a conference game and forced them to four straight threes and second-half strikeouts. It’s actually a game Rutgers should have won if he had committed a medium offense.
Against all of the other top Big Ten teams, they weren’t competitive. Ohio state and Wisconsin scored over 50 points against them and RU gave Maryland 40 points in the final game of the regular season with a bowl offer on the line. Penn State won easily (28-0) with their third quarterback at strings.
It’s a common theme: The offense can’t sustain practices or produce big plays, which ends up exhausting a competent second-half defense against the Big Ten competition.
BSD: What must Rutgers do to win this game and what can’t he do?
OTB: From a game plan perspective, I would expect Rutgers to try and do what has worked best for them this season. Play a conservative ball control attack that consumes minutes and keeps the ball out of Wake’s hands. Limit mistakes and try to capitalize on turnovers. It worked perfectly against Indiana, but Wake Forest is obviously a much better team. They also have to win the Special Teams battle and Korsak is really a weapon when it comes to the field position battle. The only way Rutgers can win is if this game gets weird and they enjoy it. They will also need huge performances from inexperienced players who will have more opportunities due to a compromised roster and the heat of Florida.
They can’t return it, can’t commit silly penalties, and they can’t fall behind early either. If Wake leads 14-0 in the first quarter, that’s bad news for the Scarlet Knights and it could fall apart. They can’t get burned on too many big plays and attacking needs to support practice to avoid gasping the defense.
BSD: any predictions?
OTB: I want to believe that Rutgers will play such an inspired brand of football that they’ll give Wake Forest all they can handle after maybe having a disappointment or a flat performance against a substitute for Texas A&M. However, I just think Wake has too much offensive firepower for Rutgers to slow down enough to stand a chance. The offense will have to get creative, but I’m not sure how well they will perform with so little preparation time. Honestly I think it could get ugly and that was my whole point in thinking this opportunity is really a nightmare waiting. Wake Forest 52 Rutgers 10