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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

The Countdown

No. 29: Rutgers

It was only one test, but Kyle Flood got off to a good start. Flood’s job, once the interim tag was removed from his title — which came after Mario Cristobal’s deal fell through, and came only days before national signing day — was to wrap up the strongest recruiting hauls in school history. So far, so good. But to say that he was hired merely as a way to salvage this once-in-a-generation recruiting class misses the point; it also paints the university as ill-focused and myopic, and Rutgers is neither of those things. That Flood was the one coach able keep the class together was just one part of his appeal, albeit the most attractive aspect of his appeal in the short term. Rutgers looked beyond that fact, even if did weigh on its mind, to see a coach with a familiarity with the program, a solid reputation in the region and the sort of background that should ensure a smooth transition. So far, so good.

Conference
Big East

Location
New Brunswick, N.J.

Nickname
Scarlet Knights

Returning starters
14 (6 offense, 8 defense)

Last year’s ranking
No. 90

2011 record
(9-4, 4-3)

Last year’s
re-ranking

No. 35

2012 schedule

  • Sept. 1
    at Tulane
  • Sept. 8
    Howard
  • Sept. 13
    at U.S.F.
  • Sept. 22
    at Arkansas
  • Oct. 6
    UConn
  • Oct. 13
    Syracuse
  • Oct. 20
    at Temple
  • Oct. 27
    Kent St.
  • Nov. 10
    Army
  • Nov. 17
    at Cincinnati
  • Nov. 24
    at Pittsburgh
  • Nov. 29
    Louisville

Last year’s prediction

Here’s the logic of putting Rutgers at this spot: I think the Scarlet Knights are at the bottom of the Big East; I think the roster is dangerously thin at several key spots; and I think this non-conference schedule is tougher than it has been in years, far tougher than it was a season ago. But while the potential is there for a better finish — perhaps as much as seven wins — an objective observer can’t sit here today and look at Rutgers and make that prediction. Who knows? Schiano’s guys always played their best when overlooked and underestimated, so perhaps being discounted is all the Scarlet Knights need to return to their 2006-9 form.

2011 recap

In a nutshell Was Rutgers the best team in the Big East? No, not really. But consider where most thought the Scarlet Knights would fall back in August — fighting for a bowl berth — and see where the Scarlet Knights stood come January: 9-4, 4-3 in Big East play, and with three of those four losses coming by a combined 15 points. Greg Schiano might have left without a conference title, as most pointed out upon his departure, but he also left with one of the most satisfying seasons of his entire tenure. Not that things went perfectly for the Scarlet Knights, who remained a weak running team, again shuffled quarterbacks and relied far too heavily on one skill player to carry the offense. Credit the defense with taking a nice step forward after a disappointing 2010 season; Rutgers led the Big East in total and scoring defense.

High point A 20-3 win over Cincinnati on Nov. 19. Rutgers would beat two 10-win teams on the year, with that victory joining a 38-26 win over Ohio in September. Topping the Bearcats also left Rutgers with a slight chance at winning the Big East, should a few conference foes have lost on the final Saturday of the regular season.

Low point The Scarlet Knights would drop their season finale against Connecticut, 40-22, to kill any shot the team had of earning an Orange Bowl berth. That loss doubles as Rutgers’ worst of the season; losses to North Carolina, Louisville and West Virginia came by a combined total of 15 points.

Tidbit Last season’s five-win jump nearly pushed Rutgers from the bottom of the Big East two seasons ago into at least a share of the conference title, which would have been a first in the league’s history. It also marked the fourth time in 14 years that the program has made at least a four-game jump in the win column: Rutgers went from 0-11 to 5-6 from 1997-8, from 1-11 to 5-7 from 2002-3, from 7-5 to 11-2 from 2005-6 and from 4-8 to 9-4 from 2010-11.

Tidbit (magic number edition) Whether this stands under Flood is one thing, but Rutgers had a magic number under Schiano: 300. That’s in terms of total yards allowed per game, something this defense was able to do 44 times over Schiano’s 11 years with the program. Rutgers’ record in such games was 39-5, including a 4-1 mark a season ago; the Scarlet Knights were 4-0 when holding opponents to under 300 yards prior to the regular season finale against Connecticut, but dropped a 40-22 decision despite limiting the Huskies to 290 yards of total offense – six turnovers doomed Rutgers’ fate.

Tidbit (10-win edition) As noted, Rutgers beat a pair of 10-win teams last fall – Ohio and Cincinnati. It was one of two Big East teams to do so, joining West Virginia, which beat Cincinnati and Clemson, and the only team to do so during the regular season.

Former players in the N.F.L.

27 OG Howard Barbieri (Houston), CB Brandon Bing (New York Giants), WR Kenny Britt (Tennessee), TE Kevin Brock (Buffalo), FB Ryan D’Imperio (Minnesota), OT Anthony Davis (San Francisco), DE Justin Francis (New England), LB Jonathan Freeny (Miami), DT Gary Gibson (Tampa Bay), S Courtney Greene (Jacksonville), LS Clark Harris (Cincinnati), OT Kevin Haslam (Oakland), DE George Johnson (Tampa Bay), S Joe Lefeged (Indianapolis), RB Brian Leonard (Cincinnati), LB Kevin Malast (Tennessee), RB Joe Martinek (New York Giants), CB Devin McCourty (New England), CB Jason McCourty (Tennessee), RB Ray Rice (Baltimore), CB Derrick Roberson (Tampa Bay), WR Mohamed Sanu (Cincinnati), DE Alex Silvestro (New England), WR Tiquan Underwood (Tampa Bay), LB Jamaal Westerman (Miami), OG Desmond Wynn (Tampa Bay), OG Jeremy Zuttah (Tampa Bay).

Arbitrary top five list

Best teams in F.C.S., 2012
1. Sam Houston State.
2. Georgia Southern.
3. Towson.
4. Old Dominion.
5. Delaware.

Coaching

Kyle Flood (Iona ’93), entering his first season. Flood takes over for Greg Schiano, who left to become the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and takes over a program not only close to his own backyard – Flood was born and raised in Bayside, N.Y., an hour’s drive from Rutgers – but also near and dear to his heart. Flood joined Schiano and the Scarlet Knights in 2005, a period that coincides with the program’s first winning season since 1992. While Schiano was at the forefront of Rutgers’ resurgence over the last seven years, behind the scenes, Flood was one of the prime architects of the program’s multiple-year bowl run. Since 2005, he’s gone from new face to the most valuable lieutenant on Schiano’s staff; as a result, Flood continually added titles to his name, adding duties as Rutgers’ run game coordinator (2007), assistant head coach (2008-11) and co-offensive coordinator (2009-10). The one constant, however, has been Flood’s work with the offensive line. This dates back to the very start of his coaching career, at C.W. Post in Long Island (1995-96). From there, Flood turned in five seasons as the line coach at Hofstra (1997-2001) and another three seasons at Delaware (2002-4), helping K.C. Keeler and the Blue Hens net a pair of Atlantic 10 titles and the 2003 national championship. It’s a stretch to say that Flood was the missing piece of the puzzle in 2005, when he joined Schiano’s staff with the Scarlet Knights; Rutgers’ slow and steady progress over the previous four seasons had led the way to that season’s step forward. But what was clear was Flood’s impact in nearly all areas: not just as a position coach, where he has excelled, but also in the locker room and on the recruiting trail – and as noted, his acumen as a recruiter was what first made Flood such a palatable target when the university began searching for Schiano’s successor. The truth is that Rutgers, for all its recent growth, needed the sort of consistency and continuity Flood will bring the table as the program’s 29th head coach. He’ll keep the program pointed upwards, perhaps filling the Big East’s power vacuum with West Virginia’s move to the Big 12.

Tidbit (coaching edition) Most of Schiano’s former assistants are now spread all over the map, whether still on the college level or in the N.F.L., leaving only two still at Rutgers: Flood, of course, and new defensive coordinator Robb Smith, who spent the last three seasons as the Scarlet Knights’ special teams coordinator, linebackers coach and secondary coach. Every other assistant on Flood’s staff is new – new to Rutgers, at least. Three have worked alongside Flood in the past: offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Dave Brock, the former Boston College assistant, was Hofstra’s coordinator from 2000-2; linebackers coach Dave Cohen, once Hofstra’s head coach, was the defensive coordinator at Delaware from 2002-5; and quarterbacks coach Rob Spence, the former coordinator at Toledo, Clemson and Syracuse, was in charge of Hofstra’s offense from 1997-99.

Rutgers’ special teams coordinator will be Joe Rossi, who spent the last five seasons at Maine – the defensive coordinator from 2009-11, Rossi led the Black Bears’ special teams from 2007-8. Running backs coach Norris Wilson is no stranger to the Big East: last at Columbia, where he was the head coach from 2006-11, Wilson spent previously spent four seasons as Connecticut’s offensive coordinator. Offensive line coach Damian Wroblewski held the same position at Delaware from 2007-11. The tight ends coach is eight-year N.F.L. veteran Darnell Dinkins, who takes on his first full-time coaching position after spending last season as an offensive assistant with the Buccaneers. And finally, the new defensive line coach is former U.C.F. assistant Jim Panagos, who is a good one – a really, really good position coach.

Players to watch

Don’t sleep on this one fact: Rutgers is entering its second season running the pro-style offense former coordinator Frank Cignetti brought with him from Pittsburgh. That’s going to help in many areas, including at quarterback, but nowhere more so than along the offensive line – an underachieving group that once again failed to mount a significant push in the running game. A year later, the Scarlet Knights look to become more physical at the point of attack while rebuilding at all three interior spots. The importance of a more consistent effort between the tackles cannot be overestimated: Rutgers needs a reliable run game to not only move the chains but also to set up play-action, and when the Scarlet Knights can push the ball down field this offense can be as dangerous as any in this West Virginia-free Big East.

Rutgers’ wealth of options at tackle will push one or two returning linemen inside, which will help Flood and Wroblewski offset losing Desmond Wynn, Caleb Ruch and Art Forst. One example is junior David Osei, who was moved out to left tackle over last season’s final month but will play left guard this fall; he’s currently backing up junior Antwan Lowery, who started three of Rutgers’ first five games on the right side before disappearing from the rotation. Two young linemen solidified starting roles with strong play in the spring: sophomores Betim Bujari and Taj Alexander, the latter a converted defensive lineman, will start at center and right guard, respectively.

It’s a slightly undersized interior – though not dreadfully so – but it’s also an athletic group, and agility is the first prerequisite for starting in Flood’s zone-blocking scheme. Rutgers is stronger at tackle, where R.J. Dill’s arrival from Maryland will greatly improve the team’s ability to move the ball off the strong side. A 30-game starter who jumped ship shortly after last season, Dill is eligible immediately thanks to the N.C.A.A.’s graduate-student loophole. With Dill in the fold, Rutgers can push sophomore Kaleb Johnson, a future star, over to the blind side. That moves drops junior Andre Civil into a secondary role, which greatly improves Rutgers’ line depth. In fact, the Scarlet Knights have nice depth throughout the offensive line.

Seventh, sixth, eighth, eighth – that’s where the Scarlet Knights’ running game has finished in the Big East over the last four seasons. It’s an annual issue that must be addressed, and it all begins up front; Rutgers has forgotten how to mount a physical push at the line of scrimmage, which has left several very capable and explosive backs fighting for two or three yards rather than breaking loose outside the box. You could say it’s the same story: Rutgers has two very promising sophomore backs topping the depth chart, yet both will run in quicksand if this line doesn’t take on a more intimidating mentality.

I like Rutgers’ ability to get more push up front; by extension, I love what sophomores Jawan Jamison (897 yards, 9 touchdowns) and Savon Huggins (145 yards, 5 touchdowns) can achieve with a little more breathing room. Jamison was the starter last fall, and a solid one at that, but his up-and-down season had much to do with a lack of assistance from his teammates along the offensive line. At his best – with some help – Jamison can be the swift, darting, big-play threat this offense needs; at his worst, without any lanes, Jamison’s quickness and burst is for naught. But he and Huggins form a nice pair, with Jamison a quick-cut back and Huggins a power runner who can earn tough yards between the tackles. Huggins, who was one of the premier recruits of the Schiano era, will see a hugely increased workload after slowly adapting to the speed of the college game last fall.

By one criteria, losing Mohamed Sanu deals a cruel blow to Rutgers’ passing game – he did make 115 grabs last fall, the most in school history and a total that accounted for 44.9 percent of the Scarlet Knights’ combined receptions as a team. That hurts, but Rutgers can still improve in several areas, with or without Sanu. One is on third down: Sanu made more than twice as many grabs on first down, 53, as he made first-down making grabs on third down, 25. Being overly reliant on Sanu obviously helped in the red zone, but it also bogged down Rutgers’ passing game at times; Sanu was many, many things, but he was not a receiver who was going to stretch the field with regularity.

On the other hand, the starting pairing of senior Mark Harrison (14 receptions for 274 yards, 19.6 yards per reception) and sophomore Brandon Coleman (17 for 552, 32.5 yards per reception) is the most dynamic in the Big East. While it’s not logical to expect both to continue breaking loose in the secondary – even if Harrison has done so for two years running – without Sanu demanding attention in the intermediate game, Harrison and Coleman give Rutgers another look out wide; safeties and cornerbacks will need to play off, which should help the Scarlet Knights find more running room inside the box.

Look for Harrison to have a nice bounce-back season after being slowed by injuries a season ago. Junior Quron Pratt (32 for 327) earned significant playing time in Harrison’s stead, likely sewing up a role as Rutgers’ third receiver. The Scarlet Knights also have senior Tim Wright (11 for 147), junior Jeremy Deering (169 yards rushing) and true freshman Leonte Carroo, the latter one of four incoming freshmen pegged to start their careers at receiver. Another player to watch is senior tight end D.C. Jefferson (12 for 118), a converted quarterback who seems close to breaking into the all-conference conversation.

I look at this defense, look at the rest of the Big East, look back at this defense, and wonder how any team in this league plans on moving the ball against the Scarlet Knights. Forget about this offense, though I do believe that there’s ample reason to believe that Rutgers is going to find greater success moving the football than it did a season ago; it’s all about one of the best defenses in college football, one that should dominate at each level – up front, at linebacker and, most of all, in the secondary. You’ll see what this group is made of on Sept. 22, when Rutgers travels to Fayetteville to take on Arkansas’ potent, high-flying offensive attack. Yes, it’s this defense that will carry Rutgers to the top of the Big East.

I’m excited to see what Panagos can do with the Scarlet Knights’ deep and experienced defensive line. While at U.C.F., Panagos put forth defensive fronts that consistently won the battle up front, supplying not only an intimidating wall against the run but also a reliable push coming off the edge on passing downs – in short, the Knights’ front four supplied the mentality for one of the nation’s strongest defenses. He’ll have even more talent to work with at Rutgers, beginning with senior tackle Scott Vallone (58 tackles, 8.5 for loss), a third-team all-Big East pick last fall. He’ll need to do even more in 2012 to help Rutgers replace Justin Francis, another all-conference pick, but the staff likes the starting pairing of Vallone and junior Isaac Holmes, the first tackle off the bench last fall.

The Scarlet Knights also moved junior Jamil Merrell (44 tackles) inside from end, and could even do the same with junior Michael Larrow; both could be very disruptive on passing downs. Rutgers isn’t big in the middle, but that fits the defense’s scheme: Flood and Smith want to be quick up front, and interior linemen like Vallone, Merrell and Holmes fit the bill. Depth won’t be an issue, not with Merrell moved inside – and Larrow, potentially – and youngsters like sophomore Kenneth Kirksey and redshirt freshmen Al Page and Marquise Wright jostling for snaps along the second level.

It’s Rutgers’ depth at end that allowed the staff to move Merrell to tackle, even it’s likely that he see snaps outside in certain packages – and as an aside, that so many of these linemen can bend between positions makes the line all the more dangerous. For now, Larrow, who started the first five games of last season before suffering an ankle injury, is pegged as one of the two starters on the edge. That could change by mid-August. For one, Rutgers is considering junior Marcus Thompson for a starting role; he started two games after Larrow’s injury. Another factor: Darius Hamilton, the five-star freshman, could grab a starting role by as early as September – if not by the end of August, if not by the end of the week, if not by the end of the day.

If Hamilton lives up to his billing – and it’s some high billing – he’ll join senior Ka’Lial Glaud (20 tackles, 4.0 for loss) as the Scarlet Knights’ two starting ends. And as a result, Rutgers could probably continue moving forward with a plan to use Larrow inside, which only increases the line’s overall depth. Between Glaud, Harrison, Thompson and senior Marvin Booker – though Booker can’t seem to stay healthy – Rutgers has a very nice quartet of ends at its disposal. This line is going to be very good.

But not as good as Rutgers’ linebackers. All three starters return: Jamal Merrell (44 tackles, 3.0 for loss) on the strong side, Steve Beauharnais (77 tackles, 16.0 for loss, 5.0 sacks, 3 interceptions) in the middle and Khaseem Greene (141 tackles, 14.0 for loss, 3.5 sacks) on the weak side, with the latter destined for all-American honors in his final season. Greene deserved more national love last fall, when he was named the Big East’s co-Defensive Player of the Year; he opted to return to Rutgers for another season, giving the Scarlet Knights one final go-round with one of the nation’s best outside linebackers.

The linebacker corps will be even better if sophomore Kevin Snyder (4o tackles) unseats Merrell on the strong side – not because Snyder is necessarily a better player, but it would show just how talented this group is if one of its incumbents can be shoved out of the starting lineup. One reason why Merrell will likely remain the starter is because of Snyder’s value as a reserve: he can play all three positions, and did a nice job filling in for Greene on the weak side during the spring. While the Scarlet Knights signed a major linebacker recruit in New Jersey product Quanzell Lambert – he chose Rutgers over offers from every power you can imagine – it’s going to be hard for the rookie to break into the rotation. The Scarlet Knights are great at linebacker.

But not as great as they are in the secondary. Just ask Cincinnati, or Pittsburgh, or Syracuse, or Iowa State, or Connecticut; just ask any team that went toe-to-toe with this secondary and lost, and the graveyard is littered with quarterbacks and receivers who tested themselves against Rutgers’ secondary and came up wanting. For all its strength up front, for all that the Scarlet Knights can do at linebacker, it’s the secondary that sets the tone for this defense – unlike other great defenses, Rutgers’ ability to stop the pass allows it to devote weapons to slowing down the run.

The only cog in last year’s two-deep that must be replaced is free safety David Rowe, a 13-game starter. The Scarlet Knights are looking at two options as his replacement, senior Wayne Warren (28 tackles, 1 interception) and sophomore Lorenzo Waters, with Waters holding a slight edge heading into the heart of fall camp. Nothing will change elsewhere: Brandon Jones (39 tackles, 2 interceptions) and Logan Ryan (67 tackles, 3 interceptions) return at cornerback, with Ryan an all-conference pick, and first-team all-Big East pick Duron Harmon (49 tackles, 5 interceptions) is back at strong safety. Rutgers also bring back Mason Robinson, who missed last season with a knee injury, adding more depth at cornerback.

If two kickers are competing for the starting job and one is on scholarship, it’s a pretty safe bet that this kicker is going to win the starting job. See Rutgers: Kyle Federico, a true freshman signed in February, and not sophomore Nick DeLouise, is the odds-on favorite to replace San San Te. He’ll step into some big shoes, but the bigger question is whether the Scarlet Knights can continue to excel on special teams under the new coaching staff. Senior Justin Doerner is one of the Big East’s best punters and Deering one of the top return men in college football, but will Rutgers continue to block kicks and score non-offensive touchdowns at a high rate? If not, that’s one reason to expect Rutgers not to win the Big East.

Position battle(s) to watch

Quarterback There are more than a few teams – I can think of one or two just in the Big East – that wouldn’t mind being in Rutgers’ shoes, even if the program’s continued back-and-forth routine at quarterback needs to be addressed before the Scarlet Knights open the season at Tulane. This isn’t new: Gary Nova, a sophomore, stands in one corner, with junior Chas Dodd in the other, and Flood has remained adamant about the fact that he won’t christen his starter – his full-time starter, you’d hope – until a week before the team heads off to New Orleans. Until he makes the call, you’re left nitpicking over what each does well, where each has his shortcomings, where each stands above the other, and what each must do in August to become part of this program’s future at the position.

Flood’s goal should be to pick his starter and go with it; it’s been far too long since the Scarlet Knights had a full-time, multiple-year starter. The idea heading into last season was that Dodd, who replaced Tom Savage early into the 2010 season, would make enough strides as the starter to fend off Nova, a true freshman would could have used a redshirt season. But by year’s end, Nova had cut into Dodd’s advantage to the point where both were on fairly even ground heading into bowl play. That’s where you can see one conceivable edge in Nova’s favor: Dodd held the lead, had a better knowledge of the system and greater experience, yet the true freshman stood neck-and-neck with the more seasoned option after getting his feet wet in the system.

Based on last season, Nova has the higher ceiling. And his weaknesses are those that can be addressed with time: poor reads, a tentative pocket presence and misguided throws – fixable errors, those that are often amended with accumulated experience. In comparison, and thanks to his time as the starter, Dodd seems more poised under fire and less prone to turnovers. That’s where he shines, and Dodd will get the call should Nova fail to prove to this staff that he can protect the football. That’s what it comes down to, really: Rutgers has the weapons at the skill positions to makes things happen, so its dream quarterback is one who can take advantage of opportunities on play-action, convert on third down, use the middle field and – this above all else – limit his interceptions.

But the Scarlet Knights can take a sizable degree of solace in the fact that they have two solid starting quarterbacks. Connecticut has none, not until Chandler Whitmer proves himself in September. Pittsburgh would love to have a solid option to push Tino Sunseri. Temple has quarterbacks, but none who can pass. Cincinnati is crossing its fingers that Munchie Legaux can deliver. Rutgers has Dodd and Nova, and the loser of this competition remains a proven option who can deliver if called upon. That’s a positive.

Game(s) to watch

It’s your typical schedule, outside of that imposing date with Arkansas in September. That game marks a clear step outside of Rutgers’ typical comfort zone – the Scarlet Knights typically load their non-conference slate with patsies, as many have pointed out in the past – but playing the Razorbacks in Fayetteville, while a handful, does give Rutgers an opportunity to make some national noise outside of Big East play. The Scarlet Knights play four conference road games, including three against U.S.F., Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, but that’s balanced out by the fact that this team plays host to Louisville in the regular season finale; if it comes to this game, that Rutgers has the home-field advantage is a huge bonus. If the Scarlet Knights get past U.S.F. on Sept. 13, they should head into a road game against Cincinnati at 8-1, ranked in the top 15 in both polls.

Season breakdown & prediction

In a nutshell Let’s begin with what we know: Rutgers remains too questionable on offense to mount a serious run into national contention. The issues are obvious, beginning with continued concerns about the offensive line, which simply must become a more physical unit to help the Scarlet Knights run the ball with consistency between the tackles. If this line gels, you’ll see not only a stronger running game but also a more dynamic passing game; a strong running game will open up Rutgers’ play-action, which in turn could lead to additional opportunities for Coleman, Harrison and this receiver corps to make plays down field. A second issue is at quarterback, where Flood continues to patiently wait for one of his two options to provide some separation during fall camp. At some point, he’s going to have to hand either Nova or Dodd the keys and live through the inevitable bumpiness – though the silver lining of this competition is that either way, Rutgers has two serviceable options at the position.

The best-case scenario is that Nova or Dodd cuts down on their turnovers and finds some wiggle room in the deep passing game. The line gels and gets tougher inside, freeing up Huggins to churn out yards between the tackles and Jamison to break runs on the outside. Harrison remains healthy; Coleman earns all-conference honors; Jefferson gives the passing game a steady target over the middle. It’s hard to believe in the best-case scenario, but it’s a possibility.

But I don’t think for a minute that Rutgers wins the Big East because of this offense, though neither do I think that the Scarlet Knights take home the conference title in spite of this offense – I think this group does just enough to win games during conference play. Rutgers will sneak past Louisville, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and South Florida because of its defense, which by year’s end will be considered one of the best in college football. It’s a defense to write home about: Rutgers is strong at each level, stronger as you move backwards, culminating in one of the best defensive backfields in the nation. This defense will put Rutgers on its back, carrying the offense through its down moments and lifting the Scarlet Knights to eight or nine wins and the top of the Big East.

It would be ironic. Schiano achieved many things over his decade-plus with the program, with no feat greater than the one we’ve now taken for granted: he made Rutgers into the program we see today, one that is no longer a laughingstock but one that needs to be taken seriously inside and out of the Big East. But the one thing he never achieved, as many have noted, is an outright conference title and B.C.S. berth. I think Flood gets there in year one: Rutgers is my pick to win the Big East and reach a B.C.S. bowl. This defense is going to be fun to watch.

Dream season Rutgers loses only once all season, at Arkansas, and beats all comers in conference play by at least 10 points. The Scarlet Knights head into B.C.S. play 11-1 overall and 7-0 in the Big East.

Nightmare season The defense is strong, but continued issues up front doom the offense to another putrid performance. Thanks to an offensive decline, Rutgers falls to 6-6, 3-4 in Big East play.

In case you were wondering

Where do Rutgers fans congregate? There’s plenty of coverage to be found at Scarlet Scuttlebutt, Keith Sargeant’s blog for the Home News Tribune, a central New Jersey paper. The best Rutgers blog is undoubtedly On the Banks; its mission statement — “Insomnia for the sleeping giant” — deserves our applause, as does its strong coverage of all university athletics, including men’s lacrosse. For recruiting coverage combined with healthy message board chatter, check out Scarlet Nation, Scarlet Report and State of Rutgers.

Rutgers’ all-name nominee DE Julian Pinnix-Odrick.

Word Count

Through 96 teams 386,586.

Up Next

Who is No. 28? A double-digit win season would help even up a few scores for tomorrow’s program, including one in the record books: Heading into 2012, this school has notched 11 double-digit win seasons during odd-numbered years and nine such seasons during even-numbered years.

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Comments

  1. Vols says:

    Tennessee is next.

  2. Flood says:

    I also had Rutgers yesterday, first. What happened to my comment.

    Paul: Are you sure it went through? I never delete or unapprove comments. If it didn’t get approved then you must have forgotten to send it through.

  3. Matt says:

    Tennessee is definitely next

  4. DMK says:

    Vols., and don’t count on 10 wins this year.

  5. Flood says:

    I thought it went through. Darn, oh well.

  6. Dave says:

    You seem very high on RU… I’m a little surprised you have them at 29 if you have them winning the Big East and in the Top-15 if they take down USF on the road. It will probably take at least a 9 win season to win the Big East (9-3 overall, with a loss to Arkansas and 5-2 in conference).

  7. ctya says:

    Tennessee up next, probably a week or two later than they should be.

  8. UberD says:

    A top 30 finish would thrill the East Tn Hillbillies. In fact, anything over 7 wins would make them absolutely wet the bed. I know I will.

  9. Zach says:

    Not even in our dream season do you see us beating Arkansas? I think it’s possible, if improbable, but only if nova and the o-line play to their full potential.

  10. Dave says:

    Bayside an hour’s drive from Rutgers?

    Maybe at 6 AM on a Sunday…

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