A lot of talk leading up to the 2011 Pinstripe Bowl has been about Rutgers’ offensive and specifically star receiver Mohamed Sanu. However, Cyclone fans should be more worried about the defense of Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights lead the Big East in several defensive categories. It will be interesting to watch a Big 12 offense go up against the Big East’s best defense.
Cyclone fans should keep an eye on junior outside linebacker Khaseem Greene. Greene is the heart of the Scarlet Knight defense. Along with Mohamed Sanu, Khaseem Greene was named honorable mention All-American according to Sports Illustrated. #20 has 127 total tackles on the season and 3 sacks. Khaseem was also named co-Big East defensive player of the year, the first in Rutgers’ history. Greene covers sideline to sideline and is involved in almost every tackle. Bad news for Rutgers fans, Greene is rumored to be leaving for the NFL Draft this year where he is likely to be a late round pick.
Rutgers has the best defense in the Big East statistically. This season, they allowed only 311.5 yards per game, the lowest in the Big East. Their strength is defending the pass. They only give up 167 yards passing per game, which also leads the Big East.
Rutgers’ great passing defense is lead by two All-Big East players in their secondary. Junior safety, Duron Harmon, was first team All-Big East and Logan Ryan, a junior conerback, was second team All-Big East. Jared Barnett should be careful when throwing Duron Harmon’s way. Harmon leads the team and ranks second in the Big East with 5 interceptions this year (and took one back for a touchdown). Logan Ryan only had two interceptions (both against Pitt) but also took one to the house. Ryan, who is 6’1, racked up 60 total tackles this year.
Rutgers has the best defense in the Big East, but they struggle stopping the run. They rank last in the Big East, giving up 143 yards per game on the ground. The Scarlet Knights gave up 178 rushing yards to UCONN in a loss. The Cyclones only allowed 112 when they played UCONN early in the season. If Iowa State’s offensive line and running backs can repeat what they did to Texas Tech, the Cyclones will run away from Rutgers.
Jared Barnett and the rest of the offense is faced with a tough test with going against Rutgers’ defense. As mentioned earlier, Rutgers’ defense is the best in the conference. However, besides West Virginia, the Scarlet Knights haven’t faced a ranked team. Iowa State has been battle tested throughout they year and played elite teams. I’m not that concerned over Rutgers’ defense because Iowa State has played better defenses this season. I think it comes down to if Iowa State can establish the ground game against a poor rushing defense. If they can, the Clones will win this game.