Stop Sanu. Rutgers wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is tall at 6-2 and physical at 215 pounds and prolific with a Big East record 109 catches. He poses a difficult match-up for ISU’s defensive backs and expect Rutgers to force the ball in his direction multiple times each possession.
Dual threat? Rutgers employs a pair of quarterbacks in Gary Nova and Chas Dodd, both of which have nearly equal statistics. It also means neither was particularly effective this year. Dodd had nearly 1,400 yards and completed 56.6 percent of his passes while Nova completed just 51.4 percent for 1,533 yards.
Grounded pound. Rutgers ranks 115th in rushing yards per game at 91.1. Leading rusher Jawan Jamison ran for 766 yards, sixth in the Big East, but averaged just 3.8 yards per carry. Iowa State, however, ranks 100th nationally, giving up 195 yards on the ground per game.
Turned around. In Big East play Rutgers’ fortunes were determined by turnovers. In its four victories, Rutgers combined for seven turnovers. In their third losses, the Scarlet Knights had 13 turnovers.
Tag team. Iowa State’s tandem linebackers of Jake Knott and A.J. Klein finished second and sixth, respectively, in the Big 12 in tackles.
WHEN IOWA STATE HAS THE BALL
Dual Threat II? Freshman quarterback Jared Barnett is 3-2 as a starter, tossing for 973 yards and six touchdowns and rushing for 348 yards and a score. His 460 yards of total offense against Oklahoma State was third-most in school history.
Red-zzzzzoned. Iowa State ranked in the Big 12 in red-zone offense, scoring on just 69.5 percent of its opportunities inside the 20-yard line. The Cyclones also tied for a league-worst six red-zone turnovers.
Turned around II. The Cyclones finished tied for last in turnover margin at minus-8. Iowa State lost 17 fumbles and threw 15 interceptions.
Run for fun. Iowa State ranks 36th nationally in rushing yards per game at 181. Rutgers’ defense ranks 56th nationally against the run, allowing 143.7 yards per game. All-Big East LB Khaseem Greene is a handful, leading the league in tackles per game at 10.6.
Explosive plays. ISU had 10 plays of 40-plus yards this year, compared to only four in 2010. Additionally, ISU converted 42 percent of its third-down opportunities, compared to 37.6 in 2010.
Each team had to gut out a pair of overtime wins this year (Rutgers over Syracuse and South Florida; Iowa State over Iowa and Oklahoma State) and share one common opponent in Connecticut, which beat Rutgers 40-22 and lost to ISU 24-20. The Cyclones enter the game as 1.5-point underdogs, the 11th time this season they were picked to lose.
Rutgers likely has the best player on the field in Sanu, but Iowa State’s Leonard Johnson and Jeremy Reeves have covered plenty of receiving superstars this year. Both teams have young, erratic quarterbacks, average running games and talented linebacking corps. Games like these often come down to motivation, third-down execution, field position and turnovers. One play could determine the outcome, and I think Iowa State’s persistence all year will pay off at the end. ISU 24, Rutgers 21.