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Big Ten preview: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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Rutgers interim head coach Norries Wilson talks to his players amid a 28-3 loss against Penn State on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pa. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Rutgers interim head coach Norries Wilson talks to his players amid a 28-3 loss against Penn State on Sept. 19 at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennslyvania. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Location: Piscataway, New Jersey

2014 record: 8-5 (3-5 Big Ten)

Head coach: Kyle Flood (fourth season, 25-18), Norries Wilson (interim coach)

2015 record so far: 2-2

Record vs. OSU since 2005: 0-1

What’s happened so far in 2015: On Sept. 3, just two days before Rutgers would go on to defeat Norfolk State 63-13, five players were suspended indefinitely. One was charged with robbery, while four others were charged with assault. Rutgers lost to Washington State 37-34 in Week 2, and then lost its best offensive weapon, senior wide receiver Leonte Carroo, to an indefinite suspension due to an alleged assault outside the stadium that followed the loss to WSU. On Sept. 16, coach Kyle Flood was suspended for three games and fined $50,000 for rules violations. Flood has served two games of his suspension thus far during Rutgers’ 28-3 loss to Big Ten foe Penn State and its 27-14 win over Kansas.

Key offensive player: With Carroo out for the foreseeable future, sophomore running back Josh Hicks will have to pick up the slack for the Scarlet Knight offense. The former three-star prospect from Palmetto, Florida, is averaging six yards per carry with four touchdowns through the first four games. The Scarlet Knights have three running backs who contribute to their 35th-ranked running offense, but Hicks certainly leads the way on the ground for the Scarlet Knights.

Key defensive player: Redshirt junior linebacker Steve Longa is the closest thing Rutgers has to a star defensive player. Amidst a defense that gave up 442.8 yards per game and ranked 100th in total defense in 2014, Longa, as a sophomore, led the Scarlet Knights with 102 tackles. At 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, Longa has moved to weakside linebacker this season after playing middle linebacker in his first two seasons. He has 37 tackles already in 2015, which is good for eighth in the Big Ten.

Weaknesses: Having lost six starters on both offense and defense from a season ago — including its starting quarterback and three offensive linemen — Rutgers had relatively low expectations for 2015. The Scarlet Knights head into their bye week looking to solve their biggest problem: passing defense. With two freshmen starting at the cornerback position — and their backups being freshmen as well — it’s not surprising to see Rutgers ranking 103rd in the country in passing defense, giving up 274 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks.

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