The biggest game of Rutgers’ season looms on Saturday afternoon when the Scarlet Knights (5-2, 2-1) host No. 25 West Virginia.
The game will go a long way in helping defog a cloudy and muddled Big East.
Rutgers, whose only two losses have come on the road, has lost both games this year by a combined four points. But against the Mountaineers, the only ranked Big East team, the challenge is going to be steep.
“I don't know [why we’ve struggled against West Virginia]. I mean, they’ve been one of the best teams in the league throughout that time, at least in the new Big East, so,” head coach Greg Schiano said. “But I don’t know why.”
Despite the fact that West Virginia also limps into the game after a 49-23 loss at Syracuse last week, Schiano is wary of the spread offense he will face on Saturday. The Mountaineers are dangerous on offense, led by quarterback Geno Smith, and Schiano is counting on the speed he’s brought into the program to help counter their big play ability.
“That’s kind of the philosophy that I’ve adopted as a defensive coach is that you build it on speed. You’d like to have speed that has size, but until you can get the size with the speed, then we choose speed. We're getting bigger and remaining fast,” Schiano said. “But the wide outs we’re playing against Saturday, they’re fast. Fast-fast. So the challenge is there.”
Rutgers is also going to get a boost pregame when Eric LeGrand leads the team’s charge onto the field. Having been paralyzed last fall in a tragic play during a win over Army, the former Rutgers defensive lineman will be the first person out the tunnel on Saturday.
LeGrand said Schiano offered him the chance to lead the team out for a game of his choosing, but there was never any doubt which game he wanted.
“I just wanted to do it this game, we haven’t beaten them in years and I want to be there for my team,” LeGrand said. “Those are my guys and this is a huge game, so this is the game to do it.”
Follow Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.