Losing three of their four games this season to ranked opponents, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have struggled against solid opponents. However, they have beaten five bowl bound teams and who would have thought that their win over the Michigan State Spartans would keep them from the national title game.
On the other side of the field, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights haven’t had quite the first and final season in the American Athletic Conference that they would have hoped to have. With a 6-6 record after losing five of their last seven games of the year, the Scarlet Knights will be headed into the Big Ten looking to prove themselves next season.
Notre Dame has been up-and-down this season, starting the year with a 7-2 record before losing two of their last three games to close out the regular season. Tommy Rees has acted as the starting quarterback this season in place of Everett Golson who was suspended prior to the beginning of the season, passing for 2,938 yards and 27 touchdowns but he has received a lot of criticism for his lack of accuracy and lack of success playing in big games. TJ Jones leads all receivers with 65 catches for 1,042 yards and nine scores while Davaris Daniels is second with 46 catches for 727 yards and seven touchdowns. The run game ranks 82nd in the nation.
Rutgers, like Notre Dame, has fared much better in the pass game than it has in the run game. After a few slow weeks of passing the ball in which his accuracy was below 50 percent, junior quarterback Gary Nova lost his job to senior quarterback Chase Dodd. Although he lost his job for just the final two games, the coaches were trying to send a message to Nova even though he had passed for 2,159 yards and 18 touchdowns on the year, but his 14 interceptions were a problem. Dodd has passed for 712 yards and two touchdowns in limited time. Paul James leads the 97th-ranked run game with 833 yards and nine touchdowns.
Defensively, Notre Dame was a top-10 defense a season ago, but has not been quite the same this season. Notre Dame ranks 32nd in points allowed and 36th in yards allowed per game in the nation. Rutgers has been much worse this season, ranking 83rd in points allowed per game as well as 90th in yards allowed per game.
Notre Dame and Rutgers will face off in the 2013 Pinstripe Bowl in Bronx, N.Y., at 12 p.m. EST on Saturday, Dec. 28. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN.
PREDICTION: Notre Dame 30, Rutgers 23
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.