Pinstripe Bowl: Heavily favored Irish on upset alert vs. Rutgers

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-6) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-4)
Saturday, Dec. 28, Noon EST, ESPN
Line: Notre Dame by 17.0

How Rutgers got here: The Scarlet Knights didn’t wrap up a spot in a bowl game until they rolled South Florida in the season finale, 31-6.  Rutgers had blown three opportunities before, including a bad loss to UConn (28-17). It’s difficult to decide if Rutgers has a good win, but if you had to pick one it would probably be a 55-52 overtime game at SMU. The 28-24 win against Arkansas in September looked good at the time, but as the Razorbacks kept losing games the significance faded.

How Notre Dame got here: The Irish have some good wins and one bad loss — 28-21 to Pitt. Give Brian Kelly’s team credit for finding a way to beat Michigan State (17-13), Arizona State (37-34) and USC (14-10).  Last season, the Irish found a way to win the games they lost this year. An 8-4 season is a bit disappointing, but considering Notre Dame lost starting QB Everett Golson before the season began it’s not a bad finish.

For Rutgers to win: The Scarlet Knights undersized defensive line will have to come up big like it has in other games. The Irish are going to try to control the tempo of the game by trying to push Rutgers around in the trenches. If Rutgers can force Notre Dame to pass more then it could get interesting.

For Notre Dame to win: The Irish are more talented, so the coaches need to make sure the players don’t overlook Rutgers or be disappointed they are playing in this game and not a BCS game.

Key Player (Rutgers): Chas Dodd, QB. The senior hasn’t played much this season, but he took over for Gary Nova in the UConn. Dodd didn’t play well against the Huskies, but rebounded with a solid performance against South Florida. He has a chance to put the finishing touches on his college career by giving Rutgers a win as it heads off to the Big Ten.

Key Player (Notre Dame): T.J. Jones, WR. Jones has the potential to create all kinds of havoc. At a mere 5-foot-11, Jones is the Irish’s top receiver with 65 receptions for 1,042 yards and nine touchdowns. His best games have usually resulted in losses, though. He had nine catches in a 41-30 loss to Michigan and 149 receiving yards in a 28-21 loss to Pittsburgh.

Key Stat: The Pinstripe Bowl has a short history, but the game has done a good job of getting at least one team in the game that will help sell tickets. Rutgers fans have snatched up their allotment of tickets for the game.