Rutgers-Iowa game preview: Keys to victory, X-factor, more for Big Ten opener – NJ.com

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NCAA football: Rutgers defeats Temple, 16-14
There will be a lot of people and a lot of hope in Piscataway this Saturday when Rutgers (3-0) hosts Iowa (2-1) in a highly-anticipated home opener in front of a national television audience (7 p.m., Fox Sports 1).
But there probably won’t be many points.
The battle between the run-first, risk-adverse, defensive juggernauts is trending towards a low-scoring slugfest, with the point total over/under settling at 33.5 points at multiple scorebooks by Friday morning. Per NJ Advance Media research, that is the lowest for any FBS game since Arizona and Oregon State in 1995, which had the point total set at 33; the final score was 14-9 in Arizona’s favor.
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Regardless of how they get there, a win would be big for both teams. The Hawkeyes are legit contenders for the Big Ten West division title, while the Scarlet Knights could earn their first 4-0 start since 2012 and give the long-suffering fanbase expected to pack the stadium a reason to return later in the season.
Here is a closer look at the game:
KEYS TO VICTORY
– Complete some passes: It seems elementary, but that’s essentially what Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said he wanted to see his team do in the pass game against the Hawkeyes. The Scarlet Knights were dreadful through the air in last week’s win over Temple (59 passing yards!), and with quarterbacks Noah Vedral and Gavin Wimsatt listed as game-time decisions, it may be up to Evan Simon to drastically improve his performance in Philadelphia.
– Turn defense/special teams into offense: Sophomore defensive back Shaquan Loyal was Rutgers’ hero against Temple, scoring the only touchdown of the game with a pick-six. The Scarlet Knights may need a similar play to turn the tide against the Hawkeyes, whether it’s another pick-six, a scoop-and-score or the first special teams touchdown of the season. If there was ever a time Rutgers could use a vintage kick-off return from Aron Cruickshank or Joshua Youngblood, it would be this Saturday.
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– No silly mistakes: The Scarlet Knights survived Temple because they did not beat themselves. It was the eighth game since Schiano’s return in 2020 in which Rutgers did not turn the ball over; it is undefeated in those contests. In a game where every point will matter, one mistake could spell disaster.
X-FACTOR
There may be more punts than points between these teams, making the field position battle even more crucial than usual. The duel between elite Australians Adam Korsak and Tory Taylor may end up being the most entertaining portion of the evening, but it could dictate which one of the two dreadful offenses — Iowa ranks 124th out of 131 teams nationally in scoring (13.7 points per game), Rutgers has scored three offensive touchdowns in two games against FBS opponents, all on the ground — has a better chance of getting in the end zone.
DID YOU KNOW?
Rutgers has lost its last 19 home games in Big Ten play, a conference record according to research from NJ Advance Media. Defeating the Hawkeyes would not only break that skid for the Scarlet Knights, but it would also mark their first-ever win over Iowa, their first 4-0 start since 2012 and their second win in a Big Ten opener across their first nine seasons in the league.
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Brian Fonseca may be reached at bfonseca@njadvancemedia.com.
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