Running with Rutgers

No. 23 Rutgers at USFWhen: Tonight, 8Where: Raymond James StadiumTV/Radio: ESPN2, 970 AM

USF Linebacker Stephen Nicholas


Rutgers Running Back Ray Rice

How They Match Up:

Forget quarterbacks Matt Grothe and Mike Teel. Forget that Rutgers is promoting in Times Square fullback Brian Leonard, who is second among active players with 42 all-purpose touchdowns, as a Heisman Trophy Candidate. Forget that this game on national television could have some of the best punt and kickoff returns from Willie Foster and Ean Randolph, both of whom can be electric once they have the ball. There are two players to watch, and they are …

Nicholas’ numbers: 25 tackles, 19 solo, seventh in the Big East.

Rice’s numbers: 604 yards, 106 attempts, nine touchdowns,first in the Big East.

Typically, linebacker Ben Moffitt (who also has 25 tackles) is who USF uses to stop the opponent’s main running back. While Rutgers will probably use Leonard throughout the game, Rice will get the majority of the carries or screen passes. That’s where Nicholas comes in: The senior, who opted to forego the 2006 NFL Draft, had 10 solo tackles at Kansas and two pass breakups this season. Rice, who as a true freshman finished fifth in the nation with 1,120 yards, is the nation’s fourth leading rusher.

“We haven’t faced a running game like this one,” coach Jim Leavitt said. “This one’s good. I mean real good; they know what they’re doing. This one’s a test, a real test. This one’s going to be a great challenge for our defense, it really is.”

– Mike Camunas

Oracle staff predictions:Sports Editor Mike Camunas: USF 38-31Asst. Sports Editor Kevin Smetana: Rutgers 34-13Editor in Chief Brad Bautista: Rutgers 35-31Photo Editor Josh Corban: USF 28-24Copy Chief Allison Tiberia: USF 31-28Staff Writer Brendan Galella: Rutgers 24-17Staff Writer Charles Gonzalez: Rutgers 27-10Asst. News Editor Suzanne Parks: USF 21-17Staff Writer Candace Kaw: USF 31-30Montage Editor Tristan Wheelock: Rutgers 24-17Executive Editor Amanda Whitsitt: USF 24-17Associate Editor Ryan Blackburn: USF 28-13Opinion Editor Jordan Capobianco: Rutgers 55-0Managing Editor John Calkins: Rutgers 27-13Production Assistant Marlow Gum: Rutgers 21-6Online Editor Paul Willms: USF 27-21