Bowl Breakdown: International

Publish date:
t1_ricebowl.jpg's Luke Winn analyzes the matchup.

The only normal thing about this bowl is that it kicks off at noon on a Saturday, making it the only one of 32 postseason games to do so. Otherwise, it's being held in a city with zero NCAA schools, a country that did not host a regular-season game this year, and is scheduled on date that isn't befitting of a matchup between 7-5 schools. Who knows: Perhaps Toronto has become college football's new Boise, and Jan. 5 its new Dec. 31.

The Scarlet Knights do have a partial tie to Ontario: their leader in sacks, Jamaal Westerman, and his younger brother, reserve wideout Jawann, grew up 30 minutes way from the venue in Brampton. It will more likely be New Rochelle, N.Y.-born running back Ray Rice entertaining Canadian spectators, though; he finished third in the national rushing race with an average of 144.3 yards per game. Rice closed the regular-season strong, running for three touchdowns in a 41-38, bowl-clinching win over Louisville. Junior quarterback Mike Teel also had a solid season, ranking 23rd in the nation in pass efficiency and throwing for 2,844 yards. Teel is protected by an offensive line that allowed the second-fewest sacks (nine) of any team in the country. Top wideout Kenny Britt, who had 1,107 receiving yards before injuring his knee against Louisville, claims he'll be 100-percent healthy in time for the game.

Rutgers' stout pass defense was the key reason it stayed above .500 in 2007. The Knights allowed just 11 touchdowns through the air while picking off nine passes, and ranked second in the nation in passing yards allowed per game (160.6). Sophomore defensive back Devin McCourty is the lone player with more than one INT -- he has two -- and linebacker Kevin Malast and safety Courtney Greene shared the team lead in tackles with 91 a piece.

The Cardinals got here by doing two things well: They ranked second in the nation in turnover margin, at plus-1.42 per game, and they had the nation's 21st-ranked passing offense, at 284.4 yards per game. Savvy sophomore quarterback Nate Davis was the main reason for those strengths: He was only intercepted six times while throwing for 27 touchdowns and 3,376 yards. Junior Dante Love was the MAC's No. 1 wide receiver, catching 87 balls for 1,229 yards and nine touchdowns.

On defense, the secondary trio of B.J. Hill, Trey Lewis and Alex Knipp did their part to increase Ball State's turnover margin by combining for 11 interceptions. Senior linebacker Bryant Haines was the team's leader, by far, in tackles: His total of 122 take-downs was 27 more than any other Cardinal defender. Ball State's biggest handicap in Toronto will be its porous run D, which ranked 99th in the country, allowing 197.0 yards per game, and will be no match for Rice's speed.

Ball State has never won a bowl game in five tries ... and it's unlikely that losing streak will end here. Too many important variables seem to be in Rutgers' favor: The Knights' dangerous running back is facing a sub-par run D; their strong secondary is well-equipped to keep Davis' corps of wideouts in check; Rutgers is even responsible for the game's lone on-the-field connection to Canada. The Cardinals have enough firepower to make it interesting for a few quarters, but Rutgers should eventually run away with this one.

The pick: Rutgers 37, Ball State 24