When: Sat. Sept. 3, 2016; 2 pm ET
Where: Seattle, Wash.; Husky Stadium (70,083)
TV: Pac-12 Network
All-Time Series: N/A
Last Meeting: N/A
Line: Washington -22
1 Burning Question: Can Rutgers Break Big Ten’s West Coast Curse?
There is no doubt about it, the Big Ten has a big problem when it heads out West to take on Pac-12 opposition. In 2016, there is no longer and more worrisome trip for a Big Ten team than the one that Rutgers will be taking to visit the Washington Huskies.
Just how bad has the Big Ten ben against Pac-12 teams on the road? The conference is just 7-24 against the Pac-12 on their home turf since 2000 and has won just three games against the Pac-12 since 2007 alone. Ironically, Rutgers has one of those three wins, beating Washington State in its very first game as a Big Ten member school back in 2014.
It doesn’t help that Washington is one of the advanced stats gurus biggest love affairs heading in to the season and Rutgers faces one of the biggest overhauls in the country. Still, anything but a beat down at the hands of the Huskies may earn the bottom of the Big Ten some respect around college football circles.
2 Key Stats:
— +5: That is the turnover margin for the Washington Huskies last season. It also so happens to have been one of the better turnover margins in the country last season (34th in FBS). That’s a major problem for a Rutgers offense that was 76th in offensive turnover rate in 2015. This is a team that turned the ball over nearly twice per game in 2015. If those trends stay true to form in this matchup, turnovers are going to have a key role in what happens.
— 16: That is the number of passing touchdowns thrown by Huskies QB Jake Browning: Why is that a key stat? For a quarterback who threw for nearly 3,00 yards one would think his other numbers would be better. It was a solid start for the young QB last season, but he finished just ninth in the Pac-12 in passing touchdowns and gave up 10 interceptions on the season as well. It points to opportunities for the Scarlet Knights defense to make some noise against a quarterback still growing in to being a college quarterback.
3 Key Players:
Janarion Grant, Rutgers WR: How do you beat a team full of speedy players? By flipping the script on them and doing it yourself. Grant is more than just a scary threat in the return game these days, and is being counted on to be Rutgers top receiving threat in 2016. He’ll have a real test lining up on the opposite side of the field, as Washington returns a first-team All-Pac 12 cornerback and safety this season. It’s hard to see Rutgers winning football games this season, and this one in particular without Grant standing out for more than his return abilities.
Myles Gaskin, Washington RB: If there is a strength for the Rutgers defense, it is up front with big defensive tackle Darius Hamilton leading the way. Gaskin was a dynamo in his freshman season at UW, becoming the first 1,000-yard rusher as a true freshman in school history. That equals one heck of a matchup to watch in this game. Teams aren’t going to sleep on Gaskin at all in 2016, and Rutgers certainly possesses the front four to challenge the Huskies offensive line. Washington’s offense will go as he goes in 2016, even with the return of a talented quarterback as well.
Anthony Cioffi, Rutgers SS: One shouldn’t be surprised to find out that with the right personnel in place, Washington is one of the most dangerous passing teams in the country. That means a youthful secondary is going to need some major help in the season opener. Help will come in the form of senior starter Cioffi, and that’s a good thing considering he is the one who picked off six passes last season to help Rutgers to 13 total INT’s last season. If he can get his hands on a pick or two in this contest it should help Rutgers’ chances in a major way.
4 Bold Prognostications:
— Chris Laviano will have most total yards of the QB’s: Yes, Laviano is not the next coming of J.T. Barrett in the run-orientated version of the spread offense, but he is not the slouch some believe him to be on the ground either. Look for him to have a nice game in both the run and pass games and that total to be enough to out-duel what Jake Browning will achieve through the air. It also will help that Rutgers may be playing from behind and Washington running the football a ton too.
— Rutgers will lead at some point: Here’s to getting the opening kickoff and watching Janarion Grant take it back for a touchdown, amiright? OK, that may be a stretch and not to spoil the plot here, but none of us have the Scarlet Knights winning this game. So, it will be a moral victory to see RU up on UW on the scoreboard at any point in this game.
— Washington will immediately turn on the afterburners and put this game away: Just as quick as Rutgers may (or most likely not) take an initial lead, I fully expect to see the Huskies to respond in a major way. Maybe it happens that Rutgers goes up 7-3 or something early…and that will be all the wake up call the hosts need. Don’t be surprised to see UW rip off 20-24 unanswered points to make this game a no-doubter for the Pac-12 hosts.
— Washington gets a defensive touchdown: I’m sure you’re sensing a theme of “go big, or go home” with these predictions, but in a game like this there really is no other way to go. Something tells me that Rutgers isn’t 100 percent there offensively and that could led to a major miscommunication on an early down deep in their own territory. It will also equal a Huskies defense ready to pounce and go to the holy grail known as the end zone.
5 Staff Predictions:
Andy: Washington 38-10
Dave: Washington 45-14
Phil H.: Washington 38-13
Phil R.: Washington 41-13
Zach: Washington 41-17