Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Southern Methodist Mustangs Free Pick 10/5/13

Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Southern Methodist Mustangs Free Pick 10/5/13
2013-10-05 11:00:00 EDT

The 3-1 Rutgers Scarlet Knights look to kick off AAC play with a win as they hit the road for a showdown with the Southern Methodist Mustangs Saturday at noon on ESPN news.

Rutgers enters this one fresh off a bye week and should be riding high after reeling off three straight wins.  Most recently, the Scarlet Knights overcame a 24-7 third quarter deficit to rally for a 28-24 win over a solid SEC squad in Arkansas.  After Janarion Grant returned an Arkansas punt 58 yards to the house, quarterback Gary Nova tossed TD passes of 33 and 4 yards to Leonte Carroo to give Rutgers a 28-24 lead and the win.  Nova finished the day with 346 yards passing and 3 TDs and Carroo racked up 80 yards to go along with his two TDs.  TE Tyler Croft added a TD as well and also tallied a game high 133 yards receiving.  Rutgers will need to improve in the run game, as well as pass protection as conference play begins.  Against Arkansas, the Scarlet Knights rushed for 54 total yards — a number skewed by Gary Nova’s -47 yards rushing via multiple sacks he suffered in the first half of this contest.  Things should get easier this week against an SMU front line that has lost key players to injury and has had trouble stopping all of their opponents.

SMU fell to 1-3 this past weekend as they were once again dominated by an in-state rival.  TCU used a balanced attack that featured strong running by a platoon of tailbacks and a strong day through the air for quarterback Trevone Boykin to run away from the Mustangs in the 4th quarter with four touchdowns and the 48-17 win.  Garrett Gilbert’s turnover problems continued in this one as the quarterback threw for 2 TDs, but tossed 4 picks as well, including a 66 yarder that was the icing on the cake for the Horned Frogs late in the game.  Jeremy Johnson hauled in a TD for SMU and also contributed a game high 159 yards receiving for the Mustangs.  With a gauntlet of Texas schools behind them now, the Mustangs will focus all their energy towards regrouping for conference play, where they find themselves with a clean slate as the Scarlet Knights come to town.

Some trends to consider — Rutgers is 5-2 against the spread in their last 7 road games and SMU is 6-2 against the spread in their last 8 home games.

Rutgers has been playing solid ball since their heartbreaking opening week loss to Fresno State and have emerged as the clear cut favorite for 2nd place in the AAC thus far.  I expect them to not miss a beat against an SMU defense that now ranks 119th in all of football in points allowed (40.3).  Look for Gary Nova to look for his wideouts often in this one and expect a big game from Brandon Coleman who was quiet last week but faces a young SMU secondary that lacks the height to contend with him in the red zone.  Look for these teams to trade TDs in the first half before Rutgers overall depth and skill on both sides of the ball take control and the Scarlet Knights pull away for the cover on the road.

Mitch Wilson's Free Pick:
Rutgers -4
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Mitch Wilson

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