PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Relying mostly on the running game would appear to be the best option for Rutgers to have any chance of coming away victorious from Saturday's non-conference game against visiting Buffalo. The Scarlet Knights were done in by poor quarterback play and bad defense in yet another embarrassing defeat last week, but they should be able to find success on the ground against the unbeaten Bulls.
TV: Noon ET, Big Ten Network. LINE: Buffalo -5.5
That Rutgers was able to rush for 150 yards and 4.5 yards per carry in a 55-14 loss to Kansas, a team with five wins over Power 5 teams in the last eight years, was a surprise considering the performance of its quarterbacks. Freshman Artur Sitkowski went 7-of-19 for 47 yards and three interceptions before giving way to senior Giovanni Rescigno, who was only slightly better. "We need to go back and evaluate everything that we're doing, who we're doing it with," coach Chris Ash, who fell to 7-20 in three seasons and whose team has given up 50 or more points five times in his tenure, told the media. "Some of the things we did are just not going to win games." The Bulls are off to their first 3-0 start since 1983 behind the play of senior quarterback Tyree Jackson, who has already matched his career high with 12 touchdown passes against one interception for fourth-year coach Lance Leipold.
ABOUT BUFFALO (3-0)
Jackson and fellow Michigan native K.J. Osborn are now in their third year together and the familiarity is showing on the field in the form of 16 receptions for 300 yards and five touchdowns. The duo connected for scoring plays of 70 and 75 yards against Eastern Michigan last week, pushing Osborn's average catch distance to 18.8 yards and helping him to earn Mid-American Conference East Division Offensive Player of the Week. Senior Anthony Johnson also has 16 catches on the season and he, Charlie Jones and George Rushing have snared two touchdowns apiece for the Bulls, whose last 4-0 start occurred in 1981.
ABOUT RUTGERS (1-2)
Raheem Blackshear received a career-high 19 carries against Kansas before the Scarlet Knights mostly abandoned the run after going down 31-14 at halftime. The sophomore matched his career-high with 102 yards while senior Jonathan Hillman, who is in search of his fourth season with at least 542 rushing yards, totaled 44 yards on 11 carries and scored the lone rushing touchdown, but both players had a fumble contributing to Rutgers' six turnovers. "We don't want to put the ball on the ground ever, at any cost," Hillman told the media. "We're definitely working on ball security before and after practice."
1 The Scarlet Knights haven't had a running back carry the ball 30 or more times in a game since Justin Goodwin did so against Houston in 2013.
2. Rutgers and Buffalo met six times between 2000 and 2007 with the Scarlet Knights taking five of the games by an average margin of 27.6 points.
3. The Bulls rank 69th out of 129 teams in rushing defense at 152 yards allowed per game.
PREDICTION: Buffalo 37, Rutgers 23