Dec. 30
3:20 p.m.
ESPN                        Rutgers vs Iowa State

Offense: Rutgers will have a decided home crowd advantage during the Pinstripe Bowl played at Yankee Stadium. They will have something to prove after being embarrassed by UConn in their last game. It is not clear who will get the start at QB. The two candidates have both made many mistakes. Chas Dodd or freshman Gary Nova will get the ball. The two have combined for nearly 3000 yards and 20 touchdowns. The top player, however, on this team is WR Mohamed Sanu. The junior has caught 109 balls for 1144 yards on the season. Look for a couple of circus catches from him during this game. Rutgers wants to run the ball and Jawan Jamison is the key player there. He has rushed for 766 yards for a rushing attack that ranked 115th in the country. Iowa State will be looking to continue the momentum that is currently in Ames. This year's version of the Cyclones is most remembered for knocking off then-number 2 Oklahoma State and ending their chances at a national championship. The offense goes with dual-threat QB Jared Barnett, who took over midway through the season. The redshirt freshman had thrown for 1178 yards and is the team's second leading rusher. James White is the running back. He averages 4.7 yards a carry and his play will be crucial to the team's success. Barnett will thrown many short passes to his receivers and will rely on their yards after catch.

Defense: Rutgers has had a very strong defense for the most part. The Scarlet Knights give up just under 19 points a game. Khaseem Greene is the Big East's leader in tackles and was named defensive player of the year in the conference. In the secondary SS Duron Harmon and CB Logan Ryan are athletic playmakers who each have taken an interception to the house this year. The Rutgers defense is very oppritunistic and forces turnovers. The key will be for Iowa State to limit those. Iowa State struggled statistically on defense, but they do play in the best offensive conference in the country, the Big 12. They greatly improved in the second half, slowing down highly touted offenses from Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Kansas State. Linebacker and co-Big 12 defensive player of the year A.J. Klein is the leader of the defense and had 101 tackles. Fellow linebacker Jake Knott led the Cyclones in tackles with 107. Senior cornerback Ter'Ran Benton will be a player to watch as he leads the team in interceptions.


The Pick: I like Iowa State to win this game. I think it will be a close game and I am very impressed with Jared Barnett. I look forward to watching him play. If you agree or disagree let me know why by tweeting me @bowlseason or emailing me at . I'll post them if you send them.





Sam Hellman, of , a part of and Fox Sports Network, answered some questions for us.


BS: Rutgers was pretty inconsistent this year. They manhandled Pittsburgh and Cincinatti, but were dominated by UConn in the final game of the year. Which team will show up at the Pinstripe Bowl and how would you rate this season overall?

Sam Hellman: Fans are more likely to see the "Pittsburgh and Cincinnati" version of Rutgers. This team is furious with itself for an embarrassing performance against Connecticut and will have had a month to let the loss of a Big East championship sink in.

Rutgers has a history of showing up in bowl games, winning its last four in a row. The last time the Scarlet Knights faced a Big 12 opponent, they won their first bowl game, the Texas Bowl, over Kansas State and the sensational Josh Freeman.

BS: The offense really struggled on the ground, but had a pretty good attack through the air. Please talk about the quarterback situation and who are the other key contributers?

Sam Hellman: As the saying goes, when you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterbacks. Rutgers received inconsistent play from sophomore Chas Dodd and true freshman Gary Nova at quarterback. Both come from top national programs -- Dodd from Byrnes in South Carolina and Nova from Don Bosco in North Jersey -- and have winning histories.

Nova has a higher upside than Dodd, but makes more "freshman mistakes," including some very costly turnovers during the regular season. The quarterback battle for the bowl game could very well go down to the walkthrough the day before the game at Yankee Stadium.

With other key contributors on offense, it starts and ends with Mohamed Sanu. The first team All-Big East wideout shattered Larry Fitzgerald's conference record for catches in a season. Fitzgerald logged 92 his final year at Pittsburgh. Sanu already has 109 catches for 1,144 yards and seven touchdowns and projects as a first- or second-round draft pick should he decide to forgo his senior season.

BS: The defense has been great, with the exception of 2 games. What makes this group so good and who are the top players on this unit?

Sam Hellman: The defense is great this year for two main reasons -- speed and coaching. Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano personally took over play-calling on defense this year and there has been a stronger precision because of it. Rutgers made five position changes to improve team-speed on defense before the season started. The best move came in moving junior Khaseem Greene from safety to weak-side linebacker.

Greene led the Big East in tackles with 127 and took home a share of the conference's Defensive Player of the Year honors. Other top players on the unit include cornerback Logan Ryan, defensive tackle Justin Francis and safety Duron Harmon.

Harmon and Ryan each have pick-sixes this year and were all-Big East selections. With Schiano calling the plays and first-year defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley providing hands-on coaching, the secondary is at its best since NFL starters Devin and Jason McCourty played there.

BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?

Sam Hellman: Look for Sanu to have a great game. Though it may not be considered a "breakout" game because he is a house-hold name in the Big East already, Sanu is a big-game performer. In his only bowl game, he won the MVP award in St. Petersburg after 138 yards and three touchdowns.

If you're looking for a more under-the-radar breakout guy, look at red-shirt freshman receiver Brandon Coleman. Coleman, who stands at a legitimate 6-foot-6 and runs in the mid 4.4's, got past multiple mental blocks during the regular season thanks to some on-hands help from receiver coach P.J. Fleck to record 223 yards and two touchdowns in the regular-season finale.


Thanks a lot to Sam Hellman. Check his work out at and follow @SamHellmanScout






Bobby LaGesse, of the Ames Tribune answered some questions for us.


BS: The Cyclones are bowl eligible for the first time in a while thanks to wins over Iowa and most notably Oklahoma State. How would you assess this season overall and what can you say about the direction that Paul Rhodes has this program headed in?

Bobby LaGesse: The future is as bright as it’s ever been at ISU, a program that hasn’t won a conference title since 1912. The Cyclones are in their second bowl in three years. There is a confidence and swagger around the program that hasn’t been there since the glory days of the Dan McCarney era.

ISU will never have as much talent as other teams in the Big 12 like Texas or Oklahoma, but Rhoads has increased the athleticism, speed, and depth on the roster in just three years. The Cyclones had plenty of young talented players that gained experience this year; most notably redshirt freshman quarterback Jared Barnett.

Few expected ISU to make a bowl game this year. That probably won’t be the case going forward.


BS: The offense is led by dual threat QB Jared Barnett. Talk about his play and also who are his top weapons?

Bobby LaGesse: Barnett is a redshirt freshman that came on midway through the season to replace Steele Jantz. Once Barnett got under center, the offense went to a new level as the Cyclones won three of those five games, including an upset of then-No. 2 Oklahoma State.

Barnett is still a work in progress — he’s completed only 50 percent of his passes — but has made throws previous Cyclone quarterbacks couldn’t. Coaches love his accuracy and the way he runs the zone read. ISU also likes to run quarterback designed runs with him.

Barnett’s top weapons are running back James White and wide receiver Darius Reynolds. The Cyclones also like to get the football to wide receivers Josh Lenz and Jarvis West and running back Duran Hollis. Each of those players is capable of turning a 5-yard play into a 50-yard play.

Also, ISU lives to give the ball to running back Jeff Woody, a steady, dependable back who loves to run over defenders.  


BS: The defense has given up nearly 30 points a game. What does this unit need to do to be successful and who are the key guys?

Bobby LaGesse: That stat is a little deceiving as ISU’s defense made huge progress in the second half of the season, at which point it was arguably the best unit in the Big 12.

The Cyclones held three of their last five opponents to 23 points or less and the defense only allowed 17 points in regulation to the high-powered Oklahoma State offense.

The defense was very opportunistic late in the season and relies on linebackers A.J. Klein (co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year) and Jake Knott (Associated Press first-team all conference) to make plenty of plays. ISU has an experienced secondary, led by cornerback Leonard Johnson, who will likely be taken in the upcoming NFL draft. Most teams have struggled to find passing success against ISU all season.

As long as the defense does what it’s been doing lately — forcing turnovers and getting off the field on third down — it will have a successful bowl game.

BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?

Bobby LaGesse: Klein and Knott are always obvious candidates to have breakout performances. It’s become routine for each to record 10 tackles or more in a game and make a big play along the way, be it a sack, forced fumble or interception. I would expect something similar to happen with both in the bowl game. 


Thanks a lot to Bobby LaGesse. Check his work out at and follow @BobbyLaGesse


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