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Washington State Cougars vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights Preview and Prediction

Leonte Carroo

Leonte Carroo

Rutgers dominated their FCS opponent in Week 1, to the tune of 63-13. Washington State on the other hand? Well, that program has seen better days. The Cougars suffered a crushing 24-17 defeat, after being outscored 24-7 in the second half in arguably the worst loss in program history. 

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Washington State head coach Mike Leach attempted to fuel the fire for this week's game when he criticized New Jersey football by saying "they have good players, but bad football" among other erroneous comments from the oft-outspoken coach. Awfully surprising of Leach to criticize bad football, considering his team just lost at home to an FCS program. 

The Scarlet Knights have announced their starting quarterback, sophomore Chris Laviano gets the nod over LSU transfer Hayden Rettig after going 4-of-4 for 138 yards and two scores. Laviano was suspended for the first half of the season opener for a team rules violation, but played in the second half after relieving Rettig who was 9-of-11 for 110 yards and a score. Laviano was named the starter on Monday during a press conference by head coach Kyle Flood. 

Leach and the Cougars are facing a crucial point in their young season after a mind-blowing upset to Portland State got their 2015 season off to a horrendous start. Quarterback Luke Falk threw for 289 yards and two touchdowns in an impressive offensive performance, but it was the Washington State defense that let the game slip through their fingers in the second half, getting outscored 24-7 after a 10-0 halftime lead. 

This Week 2 matchup is a rematch of the 41-38 Rutgers victory at CenturyLink Field from last season that saw receiver Leonte Carroo take a 78-yard catch to the end zone on Rutgers' very first play from scrimmage. 

Washington State at Rutgers

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. EST (Saturday)

TV Station: ESPNU 

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Odds: Rutgers -3, O/U 62.5 

Three Things To Watch For

1. Chris Laviano

Laviano was cited for his "body of work" as the deciding factor in why Kyle Flood named him the starting quarterback moving forward, but has thrown all of 15 passes in his entire career, including his 4-for-4 performance last week. While team standouts Paul James and Leonte Carroo have publicly supported Hayden Rettig's progression during the offseason and last season as the scout team quarterback, Laviano has apparently proven to coaches that it's safer to go with what you know you have versus discovering what you could have in Rettig. Laviano is inexperienced and hasn't played a full game for the team yet, so this game is a good test for the unheralded signal caller. Expect Laviano to be backed by a potent rushing attack and solid defensive play that will prevent him from having to take over the game. Laviano is at his best when he's asked to manage the clock and not force throws. If he tries to make big plays early, it could get ugly in a hurry. 

2. Leonte Carroo

Carroo had early success against Washington State last season, and looks to add to his riches against the Cougars on Saturday. Washington State only faced 12 passes against Portland State, but are expecting a heavy dose of Caroo early and often when the two teams face off. Carroo is looking to break team records as a receiver this season, and a big game against a team licking their chops is the perfect opportunity to do so. 

3. Hayden Rettig

It's not often a backup quarterback is mentioned as part of the keys to an upcoming game, but Rettig is in a position he arguably shouldn't be in: holding a clipboard. Regardless of Laviano's obvious connection to Flood, pure talent heavily favors Rettig as the better quarterback, who was without Carroo during his first half performance against Norfolk State last week, in which he earned a touchdown-saving tackle on a fumble recovery by the Spartans. Rettig is a good quarterback, with solid accuracy who can move the ball in big ways into the endzone. If Laviano struggles early, I'd expect Flood to go against his word and put Rettig in, in hopes he can move the ball down the field. 

Final Analysis

It's only Week 2, but both coaches are in positions to be fighting for their jobs. Leach has greatly under-performed as the head of the Cougars program, and Flood has been caught in the middle of an ugly and turbulent offseason involving player arrests, suspensions, and dismissals. Both Flood and Leach are going to coach every game as if it could be their last, because in fact it could be. This could be a high scoring game altogether, but expect Rutgers to handle Washington State without much resistance. 

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Prediction: Rutgers 34, Washington State 24

— Written by Chris Dougherty, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Dougherty also serves as a National Recruiting Analyst for 247Sports.com and has written for other sites, including FanSided.com and Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @warontheweekend.