Word came late Thursday that the game on Saturday is sold out. Even though this isn't Rutgers' B1G opener, how's everyone feeling about welcoming in once-mighty Michigan into the New Jersey night?
KR: The Blackout game is always exciting for the fans, and to welcome Michigan for a primetime game in Piscataway has everyone looking forward to Saturday, even with the threat of rain. Honestly, the season thus far has been amazing, and even though Rutgers lost its B1G opener to Penn State, the atmosphere at the Point left a good memory despite the outcome. We expect a similar excitement level this weekend.
Do you think it suddenly sold out because Michigan looks beatable or has attendance been on the uptick anyhow due to the inaugural year in the big ten?
KR: Attendance for Rutgers games are generally dependent on two things: brand of opponent and quality of opponent. So while Michigan is at the top in terms of brand quality, I think the game could have sold out sooner if the Wolverines had a better record. Conversely, because Michigan looks beatable, I think fans have a different type of excitement heading into Saturday, and the chance to see the first B1G conference win is definitely a draw for even the casual fan.
What's the hypothetical game plan going to be for Rutgers given Michigan's offensive ineptitude and their pretty solid defensive play? Create turnovers? Run the ball?
KR: Offensively, running the ball will most definitely be key. That serves two purposes. Firstly, it keeps the hands out of the Michigan offense, and Rutgers has always tried to be a ball-control offense since the Schiano days. Even with new coordinator Ralph Friedgen, that philosophy hasn't changed. Second, it limits turnovers for Gary Nova. Nova has been playing better this season, with a career high completion percentage. But he can still have a complete meltdown game, as we've witnessed during the Penn State game.
On defense, the Scarlet Knights lead the nation in sacks, and they'll continue to gameplan aggressively to keep Devin Gardner off his game. The Wolverines' offensive line is sure to be tested, both against the pass and the run.
Who are some of the other playmakers that need to have a great game against Michigan to get the win?
KR: Gary Nova's favorite target thus far has been junior wide receiver Leonte Carroo. He has some of the best hands I've ever seen and can still come down with the ball with great coverage from the defense. With Paul James out for the season with a torn ACL, Justin Goodwin and Desmon Peoples lead a rushing attack that is benefitting from an experienced offensive line. Goodwin is more of a downhill runner, while Peoples is more of a cutback type with great speed.
On defense, the line has three impact players. Darius Hamilton, Dave Milewski, and Kemoko Turay all have three sacks or more this season. Turay, just a redshirt freshman with only one year of high school football experience, leads the team with five, good for seventh in the nation. Steve Longa, a sophomore WLB, is the playmaker of the entire unit and has incredible speed to either close in on the quarterback or drop into coverage. In the secondary, team co-captain Lorenzo Waters is a big hitting safety who patrols the backfield.
What will Michigan be able to best exploit on either side of the ball? As you know we have been terrible at scoring points, but what's Rutgers been struggling with so far this season?
KR: Rutgers may lead the nation in sacks, but they're near the bottom in pass defense, so if Michigan can hold off the pass rush they should be able find open receivers all night long. The secondary has been a weak point of the defense going back to last season, and they haven't gotten much better through five games, including giving up 231 yards through the air against a "formidable" Navy pass offense. The defensive backs haven't gotten many interceptions either, so Gardner could have a good night.
The offense has been good, not great, through five games. Ralph Friedgen has certainly been beneficial since arriving on the banks, and there's not much to criticize so far this season. For Michigan, I expect Hoke to stack the box to force Nova to beat the Wolverines with his arm. As mentioned before, Nova is still easily rattled, and seems to unravel under the spotlight, so there is a possibility he can turn in a stinker of a game if you take away the run. And with Paul James gone for the season, the gameplan should be to stop Rutgers on the ground.
I wouldn't be living up to our namesake if I didn't ask about the beer scene around the Rutgers campus and New Brunswick at large. Any well known brew houses or special fall brews visiting Michigan fans might see (bahaha who am I kidding there probably won't be any visiting fans) ?
KR: Across the river in New Brunswick, there is a nice brew pub on George Street called Harvest Moon Brewery and Cafe. The beer menu changes frequently, and this month they are offering an Oktoberfest Lager and a Pumpkin Ale, as well as other seasonal brews. You can find a lot of other great places on George Street as well, and if you're looking for the college bars, you can head to Easton Ave for Stuff Yer Face. The strombolis are a staple of Rutgers like the RU Hungry grease trucks.
Gary Nova: Great Rutgers player, or the greatest Rutgers football player ever?
KR: Um...neither? Personally, I would argue that Nova will go down as a good Rutgers player, and I'm sure others will even debate me on that. He's definitely had his moments, both good and bad, but no chance that he'll be remembered as the greatest to ever wear Scarlet. He might have the record for most touchdowns thrown, but it's highly likely he'll have the record for interceptions as well by season's end. He's a frustrating player to watch, and as soon as he impresses you with a perfectly thrown ball, he'll bring you crashing back down to earth with a terribly mind-boggling decision.
OK, OK. The rest of our writers were counting on some kind of Gary Nova reference, so I had to get it in there.
KR: Reasonable suggestions for for greatest Rutgers player would be Paul Robeson, Marco Battaglia, Ray Rice, or Anthony Davis.