Under normal circumstances I'd say "I told you so."
As you will see below and across the "World Wide Web" heretofore referred to as "Dummies on the Internet", Rutgers has been pegged for Purdue-level incompetency in their first year of Big Ten play. As my client will demonstrate over the course of the season, both the Off Tackle Empire Writers Room and the entirety of the Dummies on the Internet are wrong.
Not only will Rutgers run through the non-con schedule with great aplomb, they will post respectable results in conference play. You have been informed thusly.
Yep, the "Writers" of Off Tackle Empire predicted Rutgers would finish a lowly 4-8 or so, with a 1-7 mark in conference play, with three writers calling for a 2-10 season. While my 8-4 prediction was a game off (SON OF A TTFP!), I feel 100% confident in repeating my 2014 mantra:
I informed you thusly.
Man, that felt good. While I bask in the glow of not being a dummy, let's take a stroll down memory lane and postmortem the 2014 Rutgers Scarlet Knights Football Season:
Act I: Euphoria
"Holy shit." I told my mother.
My parents were up for dinner, drinking nice wine and discussing work things. I interrupted my own anecdote about a new job as a text came in from a buddy.
"We're going to the Big Ten."
The words rang out across the dinner table. I was stunned. My parents were impressed. My wife was confused. Then, the phone started ringing off the hook with euphoric calls and text messages from fellow fans and adjuncts.
It might sound trite to those who have had the pleasure of enjoying Big Ten football for years, but this was one of those moments that fans will remember for a long time. I'd wager a Fat Knight that most Rutgers fans remember the moment they found out about the move to the B1G Time.
The 2014 offseason was one of celebration, high hopes and good-natured smack talk; a unique one in the history of Rutgers football. No matter how inane the predictions were, we were in the Big Ten and we loved it.
Act II: Stupid Lousy Freakin' TTFP
First play of the season. A world away from home. The first snap as Big Ten members. The Knights took the field, ready to show the football world how wrong they were.
Yeah baby. The season was off to the races, followed up by a comfortable win over Howard. Riding a surprising-to-outsiders 2-0, The Team from Pennsylvania came to town for the biggest game of the year; perhaps the biggest game since 2006's Pandemonium in Piscataway.
Saturday night, under the lights. Over-capacity crowd. First Big Ten game ever. With the football nation watching, the Scarlet faithful came out in droves, creating a beautiful scene in suburban New Jersey.
For three quarters of football, every Rutgers' football fan's dreams came true. A first half shutout. Physical, hard-nosed football against a true regional rival. The smell of revenge in the early September air. Then, an interception...and another...and another...
...and one more...
...and one more after that.
My heart still hurts from that game. 13-10. 22-2. Calls for the Coach and Quarterback's heads. Not a good moment in the season. Not good at all.
Act III: A Season to Remember; A Comeback for The Ages
Moving forward, I think we all now realize that Rutgers football fans will have three goals for an average season (outside of the usual Make a Bowl, Win the Conference stuff):
1. Beat TTFP
2. Beat Maryland
3. BEAT TTFP
With two of our top three priorities a no-go, it was time to circle the wagons and start chopping. Sure enough, the boys in red reeled off consecutive wins against Navy and Tulane to bring the season to a pleasantly surprising 4-1, with Michigan's historic football squad coming to town.
Once again, a great football atmosphere gave way to a great game, with The Knights and Wolverines going back and forth all game. In the back of every Rutgers' fan's mind was the searing memory of the TTFP game. Would the Knights crumble again? Would this just be the latest Biggest Game we couldn't win? Would the 2014 season go down in flames?
And then, Gary went Supernova...
...and Turay went all freak style...
...and before you knew it, Rutgers had its first Big Ten win, against the winningest program in all of college football.
The fans stormed the field, the media went nuts, and everyone lolled their asses off at the prescience of Rico Beard:
While a tough 5-game stretch took its toll on the team (playing OSU, Nebraska, Wisky and MSU will do that), the team secured bowl eligibility against Indiana (in convincing fashion!), and entered the final against our other regional rival, Maryland, with only bragging rights on the line.
What followed was the inverse of the TTFP debacle. The first two quarters against Maryland were some of the worst I - or any football fan - had ever seen. Offensive offense. Defenseless defense. Not very Special Teams. It was harsh.
The next two quarters were some of the most deliriously entertaining I - or any football fan - had ever experienced. All I remember was a swirl of touchdowns, big plays, defensive turnovers, throwing kids in the air, high fiving buddies, and finally celebrating the biggest comeback win in the history of the longest-playing football team on the planet.
When the dust settled, that win against Maryland secured two pretty awesome awards for the 2014 Rutgers Scarlet Knights. First, and most importantly, Rutgers secured The Battle for Delaware, OTE's own RU-MD-TTFP #Trivalry Trophy. Secondarily, TSONJ secured their first ever Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy, awarded annually to the top team in the Northeast.
For those keeping track at home, I wanted to put together a quick graph illustrating how many major awards Rutgers, Maryland and TTFP won this season:
One more look, with stacked graphs for extra contexualization.
Just to make sure everyone is clear, a pie chart, for super relativization:
Hows that taste, crabbies and cultists? Yeah, pretty good. I thought so. Mmmmmmmm.
Aaaaanyway, a complete and total domination over dirty, cheatin', lyin', stealin', ACC'n North Carolina capped off an amazing first year in the Big Ten for Big Ten Powerhouse Rutgers (two can play at this game Aaron!).
This season, it's probably going to be the opposite.
With a successful first Big Ten season in the books, many journalists will expect a step forward from the Scarlet Knights. Unfortunately, those intimately familiar with the team know the amount of talent we're losing. Record-setting passer Gary SuperNova. Heart-of-the-Offense and Ray Ransom Loves Brian Leonard Versatility in Blocking, Rushing, and Receiving Fullback of the Year Award Winner Michael Burton. A slew of NFL-ready players from Center Betim Bujari to Tight End Tyler Kroft.
While there is talent in the wings, especially in the form of former #3 Nationally Rated Quarterback Hayden Rettig, and an absolutely stacked group of Running Backs, another 8-win season for the Knights would be a momentous achievement and set up the team to make some noise in the conference in 2016 and beyond, as parity scheduling kicks in.
Until then, the Rutgers faithful will enjoy another offseason as Big Ten members, a Super Bowl featuring more Rutgers alumni than any other school, and hope for three things next year:
1. A win vs. TTFP.
2. A win vs. Maryland.
3. OH FOR FUCK'S SAKE BEAT TTFP