The 2021 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl features the 5-7 Rutgers Scarlet Knights against the 10-3 Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Here is the 2021 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl Preview.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (5-7)
The Scarlet Knights are replacing Texas A&M, who had to miss the bowl game due to injuries and COVID cases. Rutgers won five games and had a high APR (Academic Progress Rate) to get the invite. They didn’t defeat a bowl-eligible team this year and lost to one team who didn’t qualify for a bowl game.
Rutgers scores 20.3 points per game, ranking 113th in the country. They pass for 172.8 yards (ranked 114th) and rush for 141 yards per game (ranked 86th).
Noah Vedral has been the quarterback for the Scarlet Knights this season. He has passed for 1,726 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions on 59.3 percent completion. Three receivers have over 200 receiving yards on the year. Bo Melton leads the team with 55 receptions for 618 yards and three touchdowns. Shameen Jones has 329 receiving yards, while Aron Cruickshank has 244 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Isaih Pacheco has led the team in rushing this season with 647 yards and five touchdowns. Vedral is the second-leading rusher from the quarterback position with 280 rushing yards. Kyle Monengai and Aaron Young each have produced in limited roles with 235 and 172 receiving yards respectively.
The defense allows 24.6 points per game, ranking 51st in the country. They give up 162.7 rushing yards (ranked 85th) and 229.2 passing yards per game (ranked 66th). Linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi leads the team in both tackles and sacks with 81 and 3.5 respectively. Defensive back Max Melton has a team lead with three interceptions on the season.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons (10-3)
Wake Forest had a phenomenal season that saw them make the ACC Championship Game. Of their 10 wins, six of them were over bowl-eligible teams. All three losses were to teams that qualified for a bowl game.
The Demon Deacons have had a high-scoring offense at 41.2 points per game, ranking fifth in the country. They pass for 307.6 yards (ranked 12th) and 161.5 yards per game (ranked 67th).
Sam Hartman has been one of the most improved quarterbacks in the country this season. He has passed for 3,924 yards, 36 touchdowns and 14 interceptions on 58.8 percent completion. Five pass-catchers have over 300 receiving yards on the season. There are two 1,000-yard receivers in A.T. Perry and Jaquarri Roberson. Perry has 61 receptions for 1,166 yards and 14 touchdowns, while Roberson has 71 receptions for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns.
Three running backs have played well for the Demon Deacons this season. Christian Beal-Smith has rushed for 581 yards and seven touchdowns. Jace Ellison has 482 rushing yards and six touchdowns, while Christian Turner has 463 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the season. Hartman has helped out from the quarterback position with 342 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
The defense allows 30.3 points per game, ranking them 94th in the country. They concede 202 rushing yards (ranked 114th) and 221.8 passing yards per game (ranked 58th). Linebacker Ryan Smenda Jr. has 77 total tackles to lead the team. Defensive line Jasheen Davis has pressured opposing quarterbacks with 4.5 sacks. Defensive back Traveon Redd has been solid in the secondary with one pass defended and three interceptions.
Rutgers being able to fill in is a great story for them. They are outmanned and won’t have as much time to practice for this bowl game as Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons’ offense will put up too many points for Rutgers to keep up.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 45 Rutgers Scarlet Knights 21
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