[NOTE: Preview provided by 'On The Banks.']
The week-to-week struggles of the Rutgers offense are becoming a familiar refrain, and what is really frustrating is that it is so difficult to focus in on any one particular culprit. The play calling on offense has been more than questionable; it is debatable whether any calls would be effective when quarterback Tom Savage has regressed from his impressive freshman debut. It would not be fair to throw Savage under the bus either; not when he is getting little help from the team's rebuilt offensive line. As of now, the sole productive bright spot on offense is receiver Mohamed Sanu.
After a pair of Savage interceptions shattered a comeback bid against suspension-riddled North Carolina, the remedy for what ails the offense could be coming to town this week in the 1-2 Tulane Green Wave. The New Orleans-based program is still trying to recover from the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina, having been stuck in a perpetual rebuilding process ever since that devastating natural disaster ripped the team's foundation down to its core. This year the Green Wave are one of the worst bowl subdivision teams in the country in most major statistical categories. They showed signs of life in last week's loss to Houston, at the cost of leaving the status of several contributors uncertain for this week due to injury.
Tulane's porous offensive line should lead to a field day for the Rutgers defense, which last week held the potent Tar Heel attack below their season averages in points and total yardage. It is safe to assume that the Scarlet Knights should be able to generate multiple turnovers on defense, and could even block a punt or two. There is little doubt that Rutgers will prevail in this one. More important is having one final opportunity to get the team's offense on track before Big East conference play begins the following week.
Savage is questionable, having suffered bruised ribs from taking one too many hits last Saturday, but he is expected to play and start. More intrigue rests with the offensive line, where oft-maligned junior starting right tackle Art Forst could lose his job to underclassman Devon Watkis. The lead-footed Forst has struggled mightily in pass protection up to this point, and his demotion is the next most-obvious move after Caleb Ruch gave way to redshirt freshman Antwan Lowery at right guard. The offensive line is clearly looking for a spark; reminiscent of how Anthony Davis kicked the running game into high gear as a true freshman several years back.
In spite of throwing away a winnable game against North Carolina, Rutgers still appears to be right in the thick of what is looking to be the weakest Big East campaign in years. The conference championship appears ripe for the taking. There may never been a better opportunity for any team to finally sneak into a BCS game. All of the contenders appear flawed in at least one major respect. Rutgers may not have much of an offense right now, but the team should still be hopeful that it could still win enough with defense and special teams to end up in a good position. That quest begins in earnest next Friday, but for now the Scarlet Knights will get one final chance to find themselves, and try to find any possible glimmers of optimism on the offensive side of the ball.
Rutgers plays Tulane this Saturday at 2 p.m. in Piscataway, NJ. The game will be streamed live on the internet via ESPN3.com.