I know why you’re here.
You know why you’re here.
You want Rutgers to be good. You need Rutgers to be good.
Yes, you want to come in from tillin’ the fields and tell your wife-cousin that there’s a big game on when your team visits Piscataway. When you take a break from milking the pigs, you and your brother-uncle are going to the local waterin’ hole to shoo away ca’yotes before going to the bar to watch a tight game between the Scarlet Knights and your football squad.
I have good news for you Midwestern yokels I’ve missed so much.
Rutgers Football is going to be scary this year.
Rutgers Football is Going to Be Scary?
Okay, I’ll let you clean up the coffee/beer/moonshine you just spat out.
There we go. All set.
So, you may have read the excellent-if-totally-wrong numbersy write-up from my esteemed colleague Zuzu this morning and gotten the impression that Rutgers will be not good. That’s fair. Wrong, but fair.
Rutgers is not going to run the table. We might not even win enough games to make a bowl. However, the product on the field is going to be better in every phase outside of Special Teams which should be a push, due to last year’s relatively high quality play. We’ll dive into details below but here’s why you and your step brother-aunt in-law should pay attention to the Rutgers/[INSERT YOUR SCHOOL HERE] game this year.
This team is going to surprise someone.
It might be the listless, Schiano-less Buckeyes. It might be the overconfident Khaki enthusiasts. It might be the bear lovers out in the hills of Pennsylvania. I don’t know who, but I will guarantee that Rutgers’ steals a big win from a marquee opponent this year.
You really don’t want to be that team.
While some of us recognize the drowsy titan for what it is, Rutgers’ is as disrespected as any football squad out there. It’s widely viewed as the worst P5 team. It’s constantly derided for its foibles on and off the field. Indeed, the fanbase of its own conference wants it kicked out.
If you win, you don’t get any respect because you were supposed to win. If you lose, you’re the laughingstock of the league. Hell, if you don’t win by enough you’re still likely to fall in the national rankings.
No, Rutgers football is not going to light the schedule on fire, but they have the talent and coaching to beat every team on the schedule and a poor enough national perception to ruin everyone’s season. This is a criminally underrated team and not one you want to see on the schedule.
Okay, so why could we possibly be optimistic about Rutgers this season when last year was so abysmal and all projections this year point to another season of the same? It breaks into three main components:
- Top-60 Talent*
- Key Contributors Returning from Suspension
- Historically Bad 2018 QB Play Broke the Models
Let’s break these down quickly before we start a gif fight in the comments, shall we?
The mother ship charts Rutgers’ 4-year recruiting rankings at #59 in the nation, in the same ballpark as Illinois, Northwestern and Maryland. Yes, this is the lowest rating in the Big Ten and we’re going to see that lack of depth and star power prevent a great record overall, but it’s a solid roster.
The talent is there to win the non-con, compete with the lower tier of Big Ten team, and get an upset special on the menu for 2019.
Further, I add the asterisk, because Rutgers has a couple 4-star contributors at key positions like QB, WR and DT who are finally ready to contribute an outsized amount of value due to the critical nature of their positions. The roster is loaded with low 3-star backup linebackers and wide receivers who are pulling those ratings down.
Remember that Time Half the Defense Got Suspended?
We don’t need to rehash it, but a small handful of individuals embarrassed our team and state last year with a credit card scheme that ended up with suspensions and dismissals of 8 players, including key contributors on the D-line and secondary. That loss of depth was catastrophic, forcing young players all over the defense to step up and play before they were ready.
To the surprise of many, a number of suspended players are back on the team and in a position to contribute in meaningful ways this fall. Add that to the experienced gained by young players pushed into service in 2018 and you have the makings of a lift to the defense for 2019 not tracked by procedural metrics. This defense should be able to make plays and hang with teams, especially given the fact that Ash is taking more ownership over the defense, as he did late in the season when the unit performed better on the whole.
Numbers are Important, But Outliers Break Formulas
Formulas like SP+ are accurate for most teams, but they’re tailored to the top teams in the nation, since those are the ones that receive the most scrutiny. They’re built to measure the highest level of competition and are fault-tolerant for high performing teams.
You know what they’re not build to analyse? Historically bad offenses. 4-touchdown-and-18-interception offenses. Feels-like-the-1870’s-bad offenses.
Teams don’t do what Rutgers’ did with Sitkowski last year, for good reason. It takes a season for most QB’s to get acclimated to life on campus, let alone playing big time football. To the kid’s credit, he did everything he was asked, he was tough, and he had some moments, but the results were what they were. So why did they do it?
To increase the offense’s chances in 2019 and beyond.
They knew they weren’t going to have the horses to run in 2018 so they focused on development. Now, here we are in 2019 with something Rutgers hasn’t seen since seemingly before General Sherman torched the south: a QB and OC working togther in consecutive years.
It’s ridiculous. It’s historic. It’s also not accounted for in the SP+ formulas.
Add in some dude from Texas and the progression is clear. This year’s QB situation (and by extension the offense) are going to be vastly improved. Whether it’s Sitkowski with a year of big time football under his belt or a dude that we can assume has spurs on his cleats, the winner of the QB competition in the fall will be in a great position to exceed last year’s...notable results.
R U Serious?
I’m as serious as your favorite tractor.
Don’t sleep on this Rutgers team. They’re talented, they’re underrated, and they’re coming back from a nightmare 2018 season with a Jersey-sized chip on their shoulder.
You get your secret wish. Rutgers isn’t going to be an easy out for anyone. Unlike the SEC (where brother-cousin jokes are too real to be funny) this is the Big Ten, where every week is a grind and every team is a threat, so git yer kin and sidle up to the Rutgers vs. Your Favorite Football Club match this year because it’s gonna be a barn burner!