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After last year's destruction in the BCS Championship game, Notre Dame will have things a little easier this year against 6-6 Rutgers. While that sounds great, finishing 8-4 and playing in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl wasn't exactly ND's goal going into the season. Nevertheless, the Fighting Irish come into this game as -14.5 point favorites at 5 dimes sportsbook with a total of 53.
The betting public surprised us on this one. At sportsbook.com, they are backing Rutgers to the tune of 72%. There was a time when you could bank on the fact that the public would back a large favorite and also automatically back Notre Dame. Times have changed!
The Scarlet Knights limped into the postseason having to win their last game against South Florida. They finished the season losing five of their last seven games, including blowouts to Houston, Cincy and even a loss at Connecticut. They were a miserable 4-8 ATS this year, although ND wasn't much better at 5-6-1 ATS. Rutgers had zero wins against teams with a winning record and finished just 3-5 in the AAC.
Those are the exact reasons why Notre Dame is such a large favorite. However, the Irish were 1-3 ATS this season as a double-digit favorite. It wasn't the greatest season, but expectations weren't as high to begin with as Everett Golson's suspension dropped them in the rankings, not to mention their defense wasn't going to be as good. Still, the Irish came up with wins against Michigan State, Arizona State and USC. Their worst loss was against Pittsburgh, so nowhere near as bad as Rutgers.
After a rough season, the Scarlet Knights let go of their defensive coordinator and a couple others. Even though Notre Dame doesn't have the best offense, they should still be able to score against a bad pass defense.
Quarterback Tommy Rees finished the year with almost 3,000 yards and 27 touchdowns, but more importantly he also had 13 interceptions at a 53.7 completion rate. The good news is that there should be open holes for receivers TJ Jones (1,042 yards, nine TDs) and DaVaris Daniels (720 yards, seven TDs) to roam around in. The running game is also a bit rough with only 10 total rushing TDs. Cam McDaniel and George Atkinson III will split the load in this one.
The problem for Notre Dame in this game will be motivation and the fact that its defensive and offensive coordinators took head coaching jobs at other schools. Those are the main things you're looking at if you plan on backing Rutgers.
Chas Dodd will likely be the quarterback in this game for Rutgers as he took over for Gary Nova with two games to play. It's not like Dodd is amazing, so there's no doubt he could struggle with Nova coming on late if the game is out of reach. Then again Dodd carved through South Florida for 179 yards and two TDs so you never know. The Knights have also struggled in the ground game a bit this year against stiffer competition. Paul James leads the team with 833 yards and nine TDs, but fails to get much going against better defenses.
And while this isn't the same Notre Dame defense from a year ago, they can still play. Their most recent 23-13 win against BYU is a testament to that. The Irish are the better team on both ends of the ball, but when coaches leave, you never know what can happen, especially to a team that didn't reach its preseason expectations.
The Scarlet Knights are 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven bowl games and 6-2-1 ATS in their last nine neutral site games, but just 1-5 ATS in their last six games overall. The Fighting Irish are 2-5 ATS in their last seven bowl games, but 5-2 ATS in their last seven neutral site games.
I wanted to take a shot and use Rutgers as a 1* play here. Simply because this game has trap for Notre Dame written all over it. Heck, Notre Dame and many on it's roster, we're playing for a National Title just 365 days ago. Now, they are playing a 6-6 Rutgers team that needed wins over the likes of Norfolk State and Eastern Michigan to qualify for a bowl.
If you looked in the dictionary under the heading of "bowl teams happy to be here and bowl teams disinterested in their game", you'd find the 2013 Pinstripe Bowl as a glaring example.
Rutgers has plenty of motivation. A chance for a winning season, a chance to take out a ranked opponent, a historic opponent at that, while Notre Dame has zero incentive. What Notre Dame has is a trip to Yankee Stadium to freeze their asses off in a game no one cares about. How in the world do you get up for this game if you're ND?
But I have always had a rule of never trusting a bad team with my money, which is what you'd be doing if you played Rutgers here. They are bad. They were 1-4 on the road with their only notable decent performance coming in their first game of the year, a 52-51 shootout LOSS at Fresno State. When they stepped up in class they were blown off the field by UCF, Houston and Cincinnati and those weren't huge steps up in class.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame beat Michigan State, Arizona State and USC and went toe to toe with Stanford. If this game meant something and was under different circumstances, Notre Dame might win this game by 3 TD's or more.
So, no official play here. Can't back ND because I don't think they care about the game and can't back Rutgers because, well, because they suck.
But as an opinion only, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that Rutgers can cover this number and can actually make a game of this, simply because they are the team likely to have more to play for and it's a bad spot for ND. Also consider Rutgers in the first quarter and 1st half. Opinion Only - Rutgers +14.5
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