PISCATAWAY - With the surprising number of upsets pulled off by Football Championship Subdivision teams over the big boys this season, Rutgers coach Kyle Flood has no intention of taking Norfolk State lightly.
Forget that Rutgers (0-1) has played the Spartans (0-1) twice since 2007 and won by a combined margin of 90-0.
It doesn't mean a thing. The only thing Flood cares about is the names North Dakota State, Eastern Washington, McNeese State, Towson and Northern Iowa. Those FCS teams beat Football Bowl Subdivision squads last week and that's all that matters.
When Flood looks at Norfolk State, he sees a big defensive line, active linebackers and an improved secondary. The offense has good running backs. All those groups played well in a season-opening 23-6 loss to Maine, one of the better FCS teams.
Flood also knows a thing or two about the second tier of NCAA football. He was at Delaware when it won the Division I-AA title a decade ago.
"There's a lot of really fine football coaches at that level," Flood said. "We have had quite a few of them come on our staff here and some have moved on. There's no lack of talent and there's no lack of coaching at that level of football."
There is a sense of urgency for Rutgers, especially after dropping a 52-51 overtime decision to Fresno State, a game in which Flood gambled on a 2-point conversion in overtime.
For Norfolk State, playing at Rutgers' home opener is about exposure and a payday.
The game has a $330,000 payout for the school and it should help with recruiting efforts.
"It's a dream because most of (our players) think they are Division I kids and the reality hits," coach Pete Adrian said. "It's a great thrill. We've played Kentucky, West Virginia, Rutgers and all that type of stuff. They get a chance to see what big-time athletics is about."
Here are five things to watch when Rutgers faces Norfolk State:
Believe the hype: Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova had a strong training camp, and a lot was expected of him this season. So far, so good. The junior threw for 348 yards and five touchdowns against the Bulldogs. Despite failing on a 2-point conversion pass attempt, he was excellent in crunch time, hitting 14-of-17 passes and three of his scores in the fourth quarter and overtime.
The problem Nova had last season - in his first full year as the starter - was consistency. It should be interesting to watch that the rest of the year.
Double trouble: Norfolk State split the quarterback job last week between transfers Tyler Clark, a lefty, and Malik Stokes. Clark started, but Strokes threw the Spartans' lone touchdown pass. Adrian plans to announce his starter at game time. There is also a chance Omari Timmons, a transfer from Albright, might play.
Boston College transfer Rolandan Finch, a running back, led the offense with 80 yards on 17 carries. Tight end Joseph Hawkins caught a 34-yard touchdown pass for Norfolk State.
A receiving find: Rutgers now has a double deep threat in junior Brandon Coleman and sophomore Leonte Carroo. And while Coleman figures to catch the eye of some NFL scouts, Carroo did something that no other player has done in 144 years of Rutgers football - catch three touchdown passes in his first career game at receiver.
A special teamer last season, Carroo caught five passes for 135 yards, including scores of 69, 13 and 30 yards.
Defensive depth issues: Rutgers is suddenly thin on its defensive line. The Scarlet Knights might have just five healthy linemen for the game. A rash of injuries has left Djwany Mera and Marcus Thompson at the ends, and Ike Holmes and Darius Hamilton at the tackles backed up by David Milewski, who has had three knee surgeries.
True freshman Sebastian Joseph could be added to the mix this week for a unit that gave up 543 yards to quarterback Derek Carr and Fresno State.
Scarlet streaking: The Scarlet Knights have won nine straight games against FCS teams and they are 9-0 all-time against MEAC teams. Norfolk State is 0-5 vs. FBS teams.
Norfolk State (0-1)
at Rutgers (0-1)
When: Noon, today (CBS SN)