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The New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights Pick-Odds-Prediction 12/28/13

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-6) at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-4)

College Football: Saturday, December 28, 2013 at 12:00 pm (Yankee Stadium)

The Line: Notre Dame Fighting Irish -17 -- Over/Under: 51 See the Latest Odds


Storyline: Notre Dame looks to put a disappointing campaign in the rear view when they face a Rutgers side just hoping to end its season on the winning side of the ledger in the New Era Pin Stripe Bowl Saturday.

The Breakdown: One year removed from an appearance in the national title game didn’t go all that well for ND. Their preseason #14 ranking was short-lived as the Irish plummeted to #21 after a 41-20 loss to then #17 Michigan in week 2 before back to back wins against Purdue and Michigan State were interrupted by a 35-21 home loss to Oklahoma. A promising four-game winning streak followed, highlighted by a 37-34 shootout victory over then 22nd-ranked Arizona State, but the Fighting Irish would lose two of their final three to Pittsburgh and #8 Stanford in the season finale, landing them at 8-4 on the season for their fifth mediocre tally in six years, almost making last year’ magical run seem flukey.

The New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights Pick-Odds-Prediction 12/28/13

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Inconsistent quarterback play was at the heart of ND’s struggles in 2013, evidenced by a 47th national ranking in passing yards (249.5) and a 76th best  scoring offense (27.1). Senior QB Tommy Rees (2,938 YDs, 27 TDs, 13 INTs) stepped in when last year’s starter, Sophomore Everett Golson, was suspended for the season. Rees was brilliant at times, and god-awful at others, giving the ball up at the most inopportune times. In losses to Oklahoma and Stanford, Rees through 5 picks to 4 TDs and completed less than 48 percent of his passes in four different outings. The offense wasn’t a complete mess, however. Senior WR T.J. Jones (65 REC, 1,042 YDs, 9 TDs) put up stellar numbers and junior RBs Cam McDaniel and George Atkinson combined for 1,180 yards and 6 TDs. Defensively, ND brings the country’s 31st-ranked scoring defense, allowing 22.9 points per contest.

Rutgers, meanwhile, opened its season with a somewhat promising 52-51 shootout loss to Fresno State. The Scarlet Knights posted 543 total yards in the game and, despite the loss, the offense looked to be on track after coming within inches of a BCS berth in 2012. Rutgers followed with a four game winning streak, in which they averaged nearly 400 yards per contest, but the slate took a perilous turn and the Scarlet Knights would drop five of their next six and only qualify for the postseason after a 31-6 rout of a woeful South Florida side in the season finale.

A Rutgers offense that was surging early on in the season, fizzled out down the stretch and ended up ranking a middle of the road 53rd nationally in passing yards (242.3) and 72nd in scoring offense (27.4). And the Scarlet Knights had some quarterback issues of their own. Junior Gary Nova started the first ten games of the season and posted 2,159 yards, 18 TDs and 14 INTs while completing 54.4 of his passes, but was replaced by senior Chas Dodd (712 YDs, 2 TDs, 3 INTs) for the final two games. Dodd went 1-1, dropping his first start 28-17 to UConn, but played brilliantly against South Florida, leading Rutgers to the bowl-clinching win by completing 79.2 percent of his passes for 179 yards and 2 scores. The Scarlet Knights bring the country’s 98th-ranked ground game (133.7 YDs), but, aside from the numbers, still have a pretty good one in junior RB Paul James, who missed four games to injury, but still rushed for 833 yards and 9 TDs. The defensive side is where the game will be won or lost as a Rutgers scoring defense that ranks 82nd, allowing 29.8 points per outing and the 104th-ranked pass defense that’s given up 31 passing TDs is sure to get picked on in this one.

Rick’s Pick: ND opened up a 17-point favorite in this one with a 51 point total, a big spread for a bowl game. But while the Irish have struggled on offense through most of the season, Rutgers’ suspect pass defense could play right into ND’s hands. That’s a lot to lay down, though, and there’s sure to be some offense on display here so the over looks like the play.  

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