One of college football’s original programs joins perhaps the most historic and tradition-rich conferences. It should be a match made in college football heaven…except Rutgers has never really been good at football, like EVER. So, as the Scarlet Knights enter the Big Ten, little has been expected out of them.
Can they change some of those expectations in year one though? A lot will depend on one hire — that of offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen.
Let’s just get right to it though, and look at how we see Rutgers’ season playing out.
Aug. 28 – at Washington State (Seattle, WA): LOSS
Simple truth is the Cougars defense is as impressive as it’s offense and unless we something completely different on both sides of the ball from Rutgers, it will go down to defeat. Plus, welcome to the Big Ten curse playing out west…at least you’ll fit right in from the word go.
Sept. 6 – vs. Howard: WIN
A bad FCS program against any Power 5 conference team should be a cakewalk, and that will be the case here. Look for Gary Nova to rebound after a bad first game against Washington State. Four touchdown passes should do the trick, huh?
Sept. 13 – vs. Penn State: LOSS
A night game to welcome yourself to the Big Ten, too bad it’s against James Franklin and a likely healthy Nittany Lions team. If this game was later in the season I would hesitate to pick a loss for Rutgers a lot more, but that’s not the case and Christian Hackenberg lights up a shaky secondary in a big win for PSU.
Sept. 20 – at Navy: WIN
No game against Keenan Reynolds and the Midshipmen will be easy, but these games are usually won up front in the trenches and that’s where Rutgers has an advantage. Its defensive line is pretty good, and the offensive line is very underrated in Big Ten circles. Look for it to be a tough game for three quarters, but I expect Rutgers to pull away with a few touchdowns in the final quarter of action.
Sept. 27 – vs. Tulane: WIN
The Green Wave are making a move up in terms of competitiveness and in league this season, going in to Rutgers’ old American Athletic Conference. So, while they have improved, it just isn’t enough to overcome a long trip up north. I’ll point to this game as Gary Nova’s coming out party against an FBS opponent, and that could be dangerous for the rest of the Big Ten.
Oct. 4 – vs. Michigan: LOSS
Let’s be real here, if Michigan is losing this game Brady Hoke is going to be in some serious trouble…so is the U-M defense, because it should be better than the Rutgers offense any day of the week. While Rutgers has some nice parts, it isn’t nearly as complete as the Wolverines, and that will be the difference, even with this game at home for the Scarlet Knights.
Oct. 18 – at Ohio State: LOSS
The Big Ten schedule makers apparently hate newcomers? Getting Ohio State as the meat between the Michigan and Nebraska bread is all you need to know about how this season is going to go down. Ohio State at home is nearly automatic against the best of the Big Ten, and Rutgers isn’t that just yet. OSU big in this one.
Oct. 25 – at Nebraska: LOSS
One of the longest trips in the Big Ten means a long trip back home for Rutgers, who may not escape this three game stretch with much in the way of confidence. Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah is a matchup nightmare, as is Randy Gregory and the rest of the front seven for the Huskers D. Look for this to be nearly as bad as the week before.
Nov. 1 – vs. Wisconsin: LOSS
Hey, look at that…screwed again with a major player in the Big Ten title race. This is going to get real old, real fast in Piscataway, but there’s very little end to the butt whooping’s in sight. About the only chance Rutgers has in this one is for no Melvin Gordon, no Tanner McEvoy or Joel Stave and no Sojourn Shelton and Michael Caputo for the Badgers. If all of that plays out I’ll give Rutgers an advantage, but that’s how overmatched it is likely to be come the opening day of November.
Nov. 15 – vs. Indiana: WIN
Finally, a reprieve from the onslaught of a brutal Big Ten slate for the Scarlet Knights. With a bye week before this game and getting the Hoosiers at home, it’s a perfect recipe for a mild upset. Look for Rutgers to regroup and show some pride with its first Big Ten win.
Nov. 22 – at Michigan State: LOSS
The euphoria won’t last long though, because a date with one of the preseason favorites awaits. By this point Michigan State may have a win and in to the Big Ten title game scenario in front of it. It’ll happen at home, as Rutgers is simply overmatched in this game. However, I do see MSU struggling early as Rutgers’ pass game continues to impress. It’s that defense I’m still worried about, and the one that MSU will exploit in the second half.
Nov. 29 – at Maryland: LOSS
Had this one been at High Point Solutions Stadium (nothing says tradition like college football stadiums with naming rights, right?), I’d be picking the Scarlet Knights. It’s not though and that means Maryland’s offense has some fun in the second half of this one to pull away from Rutgers. As I said before…Maryland has the more dynamic pass game on offense and the more dynamic pass defense. That’s a recipe for victory for the Terps.
Overall Record: 4-8
Big Ten Record: 1-7