The soap opera that is the ever-changing conference landscape is going to hit the AAC next year with two subtractions plus three additions, and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights are one of the schools abandoning the new conference after just one campaign. Rutgers will be joining the Big Ten which continues to grow, and the Knights' final home game of 2013 marks their first and last AAC matchup against the South Florida Bulls.
ESPN2 will carry the 7:30 PM (ET) kickoff Saturday at High Point Solutions Stadium, and a quick check of the college football betting odds shows Rutgers as 5.5 to 6 point chalk. That spread has come down a rung since opening with the Scarlet Knights laying 7.
Scoreboard bettors will have to decide high or low on a 46.5 point total that hasn't budged since it first went out. The last two gridiron battles between the two teams failed to reach the number.
Rutgers Out To Stop 3-Game Slide
The 2013 season started out well enough for Kyle Flood and the Scarlet Knights. A tough overtime loss at Fresno State in the season opener was followed by four straight wins, including a win and cover vs. Arkansas. But that's where the fun stopped for Rutgers (5-6 straight up, 3-8 against the spread).
The Scarlet Knights have since dropped five of six, the most recent setback an embarrassing 28-17 loss last week at Connecticut where they were 2-point favorites, their fifth consecutive game without covering the spread. A weak offense that has been turnover prone all season was once again the culprit as the Huskies rallied from a third-quarter deficit for the win.
Injuries have been one problem for Flood and the Knights, perhaps none more damaging than the early-season concussion suffered by 1st-string quarterback Gary Nova. The junior pivot never really seemed to recover and was inconsistent after that, leading Flood to replace Nova with senior Chas Dodd a week ago at UConn. Dodd did throw for nearly 290 yards, but was picked up twice.
Those two interceptions plus a fumble brought the Scarlet Knights' season total to 25 giveaways. Their -10 turnover margin ranks near the bottom of the country, and has been a big factor in the team allowing 32 points per game (94th).
Bulls Want To Avoid 10-Loss Season
If Flood thinks his second season on the job at Rutgers has been rough, he's certainly not going to get any sympathy from his counterpart at South Florida. Willie Taggart is about to finish his first year as head coach of the Bulls (2-9 SU, 5-6 ATS), and it has been anything but fun for the former Western Kentucky head coach and Stanford assistant.
It all got rolling with a 53-21 setback at home to McNeese State, a game in which the Bulls were giving up nearly three touchdowns, and it's coming to an end with South Florida in the midst of a 5-game skid and heading towards a potential 10-loss season. That's something the Bulls have never experienced since joining the FBS ranks in 2000.
South Florida has actually turned it over more often than Rutgers, but has tempered some of that with 24 takeaways. The Bulls have one of the most impotent offensive attacks at the Div-I level, and without a decent defense would possibly be facing a winless season.
A brisk forecast is up for Saturday evening in Piscataway. The thermometer is expected to be right at the freezing mark for the start of the game, and dipping into the 20s with a light north breeze.
It's tough to tell what mindset either team will have for a game that has very little meaning, other than Rutgers wanting to finish .500 and South Florida looking to avoid a 10th loss. There isn't much of a rivalry here, with the teams first meeting as Big East foes in 2005 and Rutgers winning six of the eight clashes since then.
The total is rather low, but I'm going to add the 'under' to my list of free college football picks in Week 15.
My picks: South Florida-Rutgers Under 46.5
Season: 26-13 (+11.7); 7 picks pending