Rutgers comes out of 2015 with a respectable record against unfamiliar conference foes, a bright future ahead, and a brewing controversy over something fairly ridiculous. So, things are about the same as they've been for the past half decade.
I'll admit it, when I saw Aaron post the Closing Argument for the team from Pennsylvania last week, I had a moment of panic. Had I forgotten what day RU's closing argument was scheduled for? Had the Jersey shore robbed me of all responsibilities and sense of time? Was I -- thaaaat's right: Rutgers was ranked ahead of our rivals across the Delaware, due in large part I'm sure to emerging victorious in the first ever Battle for Delaware.
As it is every year, it's an interesting, exciting and never-a-dull-moment time to be a fan of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, both on and off the field. Let's take a look at how things shook out in 2014 and what we can expect in the coming season.
I. Case History & Opening Statement
A. Case History
At this point, it's hard to even remember the OTE staff predictions from last season's Closing Arguments. Actually, it's not, because internet:
Top-notch "writing" there, fellas.
I'm pretty sure the embarrassment and subsequent fallout is why Mike Jones left OTE. 2 wins Mike? Really?
Moving on, we're not bitter about 2014 though (minus that one game that shall not be mentioned DAMN YOU CHRISTIAN HACKENSACK). Quite the contrary. 2014 was a year of great games, close wins and memorable firsts.
Exhibit A: First B1G Conference Victory over the Michigan Wolverines:
(Note: You may need to disable AdBlock to watch embedded videos.)
Exhibit B: Biggest Rutgers comeback in the history of the program, over the Maryland Derpapins
When you've been playing since 1869 and you score the biggest comeback in team history against your down-the-road rival, that's pretty darn awesome.
Exhibit C: Absolutely Demolishing ACC foe and general n'er do well, The North Carolina Tarheels to go 5-0 OOC:
Did he just say "Scary Nova"? WHY WAS THAT NOT A NICKNAME LAST YEAR?!
We could raid BTN's Rutgers archive for a dozen more great moments from the season, but we have some 2015 to get ready for!
B. Opening Statement
Getcha popcorn, because the 2015 Scarlet Knights are going to be nothing if not wildly entertaining. With potential to be world-beaters or bottom-feeders, this edition of Rutgers football has a wider delta than any in recent memory.
Best case, the team runs through the non-conference schedule on the arm of golden boy Hayden Rettig and an improved defense. Worst case, Kyle Flood gets fired, everyone cries big man tears, and the team implodes without the proven leadership of Scary Nova (there, I got to use it in context once) to provide stability at the helm.
The Rutgers attack could be outstanding; the best in a decade. Full stop, no qualifiers. This offense could be #WisconsinScoresAgain good.
Rutgers boasts a former Army All American at QB in Hayden Rettig, with one of the better QB2's in the conference backing him up (unless he gets busted for underage drinking again). Leonte Carroo is the best receiver in the Big Ten and is complimented by the electric Janarion Grant and the very large Andre Patton and Carlton Agudosi. The backfield is absolutely stacked, with potential All-American (better believe it!) Paul James starting and a trio of playmaking tailbacks in Hicks, Goodman and Martin waiting in the wings. Fullback Sam "Big Cat" Bergen, the strongest player on the team, anchors the pro style run game.
The risk comes from the offensive line, where 3 starting spots are being filled by highly rated yet untested talent. LT Lumpkin is a complete tackle and a future pro while Muller and Denman are athletic and powerful run blockers in their own right. While the line is filled with 4-star players who have been groomed to play on this stage, this group is a largely unknown quantity.
I sound like a broken record, but this is where things could get scary.
First, the good. The defensive line is extremely athletic, filled with playmakers and should make passing downs very uncomfortable for opposing quarterbacks. Darius Hamilton is the heart and soul of the defense; the rare dynamic playmaker from the DT position. He is complimented by the freaky athletic Kemoko Turay, who's legend grows by the day. The line is backed by a trio of quick, playmaking linebackers who can run sideline-to-sideline. Steve Longa returns for another pretty-much-guaranteed 100-tackle season, while South Carolina transfer Kaiwan Lewis looks like a great addition at MLB.
Where Rutgers was once a powerhouse in producing defensive backs (see Patriots, New England), a few years of injuries, transfers and position changes have left the cupboard bare. While there is potential in a set of extremely athletic backs, there is little experience, especially at corner. The hope is that pressure up front will lead to rushed throws and lots of sacks, but this once-proud defense could be in for a long year while a young secondary finds its legs.
Overall, the defense, as in years past, will feast or famine based on big plays, positive and negative. Further, while bigger defenders are in the recruiting pipeline, the undersized front seven will likely get pushed around by the elites of the conference, unless the RU offense can get out to a sizeable lead; a big ask against some of the best defenses in college football.
...are going to be boss. Blocked kicks, big returns. Don't take that pee break until the RU 'teams are off the field.
C. Timeline of Events
Overall, the schedule looks like a fun one. If we can pull out a win on the 19th, Rutgers has a chance to be 4-0 going into the MSU game at night, under the lights.
|Saturday 9/5, 12:00 PM
|Saturday 9/12, 3:30 PM
|Saturday 9/19, 8:00 PM
|Saturday 9/26, 12:00 PM
|Saturday 10/10, 8:00 PM
|Saturday 10/17, 3:30 PM
|Saturday 10/24, 8:00 PM
|Saturday 10/31, TBD
|Saturday 11/7, TBD
|Saturday 11/14, TBD
|Saturday 11/21, 12:00 PM
|Saturday 11/28, TBD
Really though, there's only one MUST WIN game on the schedule. To be fair, I don't think anyone would be displeased with another great win vs. Maryland to close the season too. Other than that, just make a bowl, boys!
A. What We've Written About Rutgers This Offseason
B1G 2015 // We're Halfway There: The Next College Football Dynasty
B1G 2015// Better Know an OTE "Writer": Ray Ransom
B1G 2015 // ARE YOU RUTGERS?
I Love Rutgers.
Rutgers OffTackleEmpire concept t-shirt
B. What We Can Learn From Pop Culture
Last offseason, there were some...concerns...about how Rutgers would fare in 2015. I informed you that we'd do fine. The bloggerati (aka "Dummies on the Internet") were not assuaged and accordingly, predicted things like a 2-win season.
As promised, I was sure to remind said Dummies that I had informed you thusly with frequency and vehemence throughout the season, so I think we can put that meme to rest.
lol jk eat it one more time, dummies.
III. Emotional Plea
As "Oh" said it in the instant classic (or so my kids tell me) Home, "Today is best day ever."
For Rutgers, 2015 is best season ever.
The shine of the Big Ten still hasn't worn off. Seeing the biggest teams in college football come to the banks and watching the boys from Jersey travel to some of the most storied venues in sports still has a newness and excitement that is simply intoxicating. When combined with fine beer, it makes for a great Saturday afternoon.
The fact that we were able to compete in year 1 of the Big Ten was wonderful. Now, it's time to sustain that success. Losing one of the best Rutgers quarterbacks in a century (holy shit I just said that non-ironically) is a big hit, but the team has the talent, depth and leadership (Barchi willing!) to make some noise in 2015.
Run through the non-con. Make a bowl. Beat the goddamn team from Pennsylvania.
Maybe...just, maybe, it all comes together. The golden boy. The grizzled back. The army of skill players. The mean D line. The electric returner. Maybe we have that moment of synergy and everything falls into place, culminating in a season for the ages.
IV. The Verdict
Rodney! Rodney, we finally did it! We got some respect!
While there are a few fools to be found on the list - lookin at you Whitey - this is a far cry from last year's Parade of Dummies. The rest of the football world has seemed to take notice as well, pegging Rutgers for another bowl year and a solid finish in the ultra-competitive Big Ten East.
|Candystripes for Breakfast
|OTE Staff Average:
For consideration: Last year, the Knights blew expectations out of the water. Is another surprise season in store for 2015?