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Pitt Faces Emotional Rutgers Team In Big East Matchup

Pitt faces a Rutgers team struggling to get ready for a Big East game amidst the painful loss of teammate Eric LeGrand, who has been paralyzed during last week's win over Army.

No one will know how the team will react, but one could argue that the injury affects Pitt somewhat as well. They are the first team to face Rutgers since the injury and even though most of the players aren't personally familiar with LeGrand, the injury has to be in the back of their minds somewhat. Pitt is doing everything it can to reach out to LeGrand and Rutgers.

Rutgers enters the game with one of the toughest defenses in the country. The Scarlet Knights rank in the top 20 in scoring defense, passing defense, and total defense. Rutgers enters with a 4-2 record, but has had its share of scares this season and could easily be 1-5. The team won by five against Florida International (a team Pitt beat by 27), won by three against UConn, and after trailing big, came back against to beat Army by three in overtime. Rutgers also has losses to North Carolina and Tulane. 

It's been a tough go for Rutgers offensively, as the team ranks only 72nd in passing yardage and 99th in rushing yardage. The Scarlet Knights are led by double-threat Mohamed Sanu, who has nearly 300 yards rushing and 300 yards receiving. Sanu, though, is injured and listed as questionable on Rutgers' injury report. Even if he plays, he likely won't be 100%.

Pitt has had its share of struggles with Rutgers, losing four out of their past five games to the team. Rutgers will do everything it can to try to make this a low-scoring affair and maximize its chances of winning. If the team is able to keep Pitt in the 20s, they should have a chance to win.

Despite Rutgers' lofty rankings, I expect Pitt to be able to move the ball. Maybe not to the tune of 45 points as they did against Syracuse, but they should be able to put up some points playing at home. The team got its offense going, involving all of its stars. It introduced a new weapon in Devin Street, who showed his athleticism in taking Pitt's first play from scrimmage last week to the house for a touchdown.

My prediction: Pitt 27, Rutgers 13

Check out my Q&A preview with Jon over at Rutgers blog On the Banks for his take on things. 

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.