If you ever wanted to know how it feels to be a doormat, go ask anyone associated with the Rutgers football program. Since joining the Big Ten in 2014, Rutgers has gone 19-42 overall and 7-36 in conference. There really isn’t much to say about it. It doesn’t take much analysis to understand how bad Rutgers (1-11, 0-9 BIG) has been. Head Coach Chris Ash has promised quite a bit since arriving a few years ago and has very little to show for it. He is undeniably on the hot seat.
The Scarlet Knights host UMASS, Boston College, and Liberty throughout the season. You would hope they could salvage at least one or two wins against those teams. Besides from playing at Iowa and at Michigan, the most brutal part of the season will be the end–by hosting Ohio State and Michigan State and traveling to Penn State.
As the saying goes:
You win some, you lose some, unless you are Rutgers, than you win few and lose most.
It will get better for Rutgers, but if I were a Rutgers fan I wouldn’t be holding my breath.
Offense (13.5 PPG, Returning Starters: 8)
Rutgers brings back three starting offensive linemen. That is going to be important for a team that is going to live and die by the running game. It isn’t a bad idea to stick to the running game when you have an explosive back like Raheem Blackshear (824 yards, 6 TDs) and another tailback in Isaih Pacheco (551 yards, 3 TDs) to spell him. Blackshear showed his versatility with 44 catches out of the backfield as well.
Another reason to keep the ball on the ground is to keep the ball out of the hands of their quarterback, Artur Sitkowski. Sitkowski threw 18 interceptions and had the worst pass efficiency rating at 76.4 in the country. You aren’t going to win very many games when you turn the ball over that much. The good news is Sitkowski can’t get worse in his second year.
Rutgers is still looking for more receiving options, but look for Bo Melton, Eddie Lewis, and Shameen Jones to step up into larger roles. The receivers corps needs to find a way to create more big plays to help their young quarterback out and relieve the running game from stacked boxes.
A realistic goal for this offense? Limit the turnovers and try and score more than 15 points per game.
Defense (31.3 PPG, Returning Starters: 9)
The defense gave up more than 4 touchdowns a game last season. If they want to win more football games they are going to need to bring that number way down, obviously.
When it comes to the secondary, true sophomore Avery Young (67 tackles, 10 pass breakups) played admirably as a freshman. Damon Hayes (63 tackles, 2 INTs) will be moving back to corner this season from the safety spot.
In front of them is Tyreek Maddox-Williams (47 tackles) and Tyshon Fogg (47 tackles) at the linebacker positions. Coach Ash likes his depth with this group, but I don’t see it, they lost two linebackers that led the team in tackles.
Upfront is where Rutgers has been historically bullied. The Scarlet Knights lose Kevin Wilkins and Jon Bateky to graduation. This leaves Elorm Lumor (4 sacks), Julius Turner, and Willington Previlon to lead the way. They do return pass rusher, Mike Tverdov who had 4 sacks last season.
When I was in high school, my head coach would put together a “senior package” that would be comprised of just seniors playing in their last game. It was a fun way to play the seniors that have given so much to the program after the game had been decided. Barring bad weather, Coach Franklin can probably assemble his own package of seniors to play the second half of this game. I don’t know the nice way to say this, but I am not sure how much spirit Rutgers will have left after playing Ohio State, Michigan State, and then Penn State to end a season that probably won’t be going Rutgers way. Penn State by a lot.
Penn State: 42
(Follow me on Twitter @Cory_Lestochi)
This is the twelfth and final installment of Penn State’s Prey 2019. If you have missed any of the pieces you can find them here: Idaho, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Purdue, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Indiana, and Ohio State.