The Rutgers Scarlet Knights are coming off a bye week following a disappointing loss to the Louisville Cardinals and welcome the offensively potent Houston Cougars in an AAC showdown. Rutgers needs the win to keep pace in what has become a muddled conference title race after Louisville’s upset loss last week but will be faced with a major challenge against one of the best offenses in the conference. For the Knights to protect their home turf and keep pace in the AAC title race, Gary Nova needs to prepare for a shootout.
Houston comes to town as the No. 4 team in the AAC in passing and No. 1 in scoring. Deontay Greenberry is as dominant a receiver as there is in the conference and will test the Rutgers’ defense early and often. So far this season, the Knights have not done well when tested by the passing game, ranking last in the AAC in pass defense. They face a foe in Houston that is perfectly suited to take advantage of their biggest defensive weakness.
To overcome that weakness, the Knights will have to put up points of their own and Nova is their best weapon on offense. He’s shown he can let it rip and score points with Rutgers’ offense which has scored 50 points or more twice this season with Nova throwing for 631 yards, nine touchdowns and just two interceptions combined. It’s possible that Nova will have to lead another scoring flurry like that to keep up with Houston who is averaging 40.8 points per game this season.
This will mean a bounce-back performance for Nova, however. In Rutgers’ loss to Louisville, Nova completed a season-low 52.8 percent of his passes for 2020 yards with just one touchdown and four interceptions. The four picks matched his season total coming into the game and the Cardinals’ defense tormented Nova for all four quarters. It was his worst performance of the season by far but he has had a bye week to regroup following that poor showing.
He will need to be at his best (or very close to it) to keep Rutgers in this game. Houston has shown the ability to score points and the Rutgers’ pass defense doesn’t appear up to the challenge of slowing them down. That puts the pressure on Nova to light up the scoreboard on Saturday and lead the Knights to victory.