As it was last year, WSU's matchup with Rutgers appears to be a pivotal game for the Cougars. To their benefit, the Scarlet Knights are having to deal with a host of off-field problems, the biggest of which is an investigation into coach Kyle Flood's potentially improper contact with a professor that was revealed this morning.
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Flood is being investigated for emailing the professor of presumed starting cornerback Nadir Barnwell, whose academic standing appears questionable. That, apparently, is a pretty big no-no in university circles! Before you pooh-pooh the potential fallout, that nj.com story cites a similar case in Georgia where a swim/dive coach emailed a professor to suggest that perhaps one of his players could be moved to a pass/fail independent study and was subsequently suspended for 50 percent of the season.
For his part, Flood says the story "insults" him and his program, and that he regularly communicates with professors, even though school policy prohibits that. The story reports that Rutgers figures to wrap up its investigation quickly, so whatever potential punishment is doled out should be known before WSU travels to New Jersey.
Barnwell's status, meanwhile, appears to still be up in the air. The Rutgers defensive secondary has undergone a make-over necessitated by graduation, and the junior has made 10 starts over the last two years and is assumed to be sliding into one of the starting spots this season ... if he's eligible. If not, it could mean even more favorable matchups for WSU's talented passing offense.
Then, there's Rutgers' situation at quarterback. Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig are competing for the privilege of replacing Gary Nova. And when we say this is a competition, we don't mean a Mike Leach style Luke Falk/Peyton Bender competition. We mean a true, "Damn, will someone please step up and take the job?" competition.
Rettig will get the first chance to show what he can do, as Laviano has been suspended for the first half of the first game against FCS Norfolk State after violating curfew. Rettig also comes with the better pedigree, having been rated a composite four-star player who signed with LSU before transferring, but neither has distinguished himself as the clear-cut guy this fall.
Beating Rutgers would give WSU a huge boost on its quest to simply get back to a bowl this season. It appears the Scarlet Knights could be in prime position for the taking.