I. Case History & Opening Statements
A. Case History
Your honor, I will readily concede that my client, the Rutgers University Football Team, had what industry insiders might consider a “rough year” last year. Yes, we had what one might term “the second worst offense in college football.” Yes, we achieved national renown for all the wrong reasons. Yes, it was inspirationally bad.
However, one thing the team never did was give up. They fought on like the revolutionary war hero Henry Rutgers, even in the face of impossible odds. I will, in the coming minutes, illustrate a somewhat ostentatious case for the rise of Rutgers football in 2019, but for now, I would simply offer that the Rutgers men got better as the year went on, despite facing ever-fiercer opponents.
B. Opening Statement
Verily, the Rutgers footballmen of 2019 will shock YES SHOCK the nation in their 150th year of playing football. As you may recall, Rutgers (with some input from Princeton) developed the game of football a century and a half ago. You’re welcome.
I know, I may be accused of “optimism” or “homerism” or “alcoholism” but if we review the history, the facts, and the facts of our hearts, we can see a clear trend towards greatness for these 2019 Scarlet Knights.
Will they win the Big Ten East? Probably not.
Will they win 6 games including a shocker at Penn State and go on to bowl game glory, saving the Chris Ash regime and ushering in a fourth golden age of Rutgers Football?
I say YES!
Exhibit A - The Offense
The offense will not lose many games this season, and that will be what triggers the rebirth of Rutgers football.
No, this is not going to be a Big 12 “throw your hands in the air like you just don’t care” air raid, but it will be a competent offense that gets chunk yards and doesn’t go three and out. The run game will power the field game position, the receivers will make just enough plays, and the offensive line will get enough push for 3 yards and a cloud of dust.
With two of the best running backs in the league and quarterback play that will be vastly improved no matter who emerges from the training camp scrum at quarterback, this Rutgers offense will avoid disaster.
Exhibit B - The Defense
Why will we see a big turnaround this year?
You think your team is DBU? You’re wrong. It’s all Rutgers baby, and that trend continues this year with talent all over the defensive backfield. Damon Hayes and Avery Young pose a formidable pair of starting cornerbacks with size, skills and athleticism. Backed by a deep stable of safeties, this could be the best group in a decade, despite the departure of three DBs to the NFL in 2019.
While the secondary should shine, linebacker boasts the most depth on the team and will provide solid play with a few special talents providing splash plays.
If the defense has a weakness, it’s defensive line depth. While there are talented starters backed by linebackers who can contribute at Jack, the depth in the trenches is not as robust. A few injuries could short circuit this group later in the year.
Overall, this group should be formidable and is led by a pair of excellent defensive minds. The defense will be the backbone of the 2019 Rutgers resurgence.
Exhibit C - Teams
This is the Big Ten.
This is the league of frozen trundras and three-yard dust clouds and field position. In 2019 just as in 1899, the most critical component of a successful football squad is its Special Teams.
In 2019 Rutgers is absolutely stacked on ‘teams.
Aussie phenom Adam Korsak brings a big leg and fake punt threat on every rollout, averaging 42+ yards in just his first season of American Football. Think about how many punters he outkicked who’ve been playing their entire lives. This guy is like your 2nd grade cousin kicking the crap out of you with an awesome accent.
At kicker, hometown hero Justin Davidovicz was a revelation in his first year kicking for RU, going 9-11 and a 60 yard average on kickoffs with 14 touchbacks. He’ll look to improve on volume while maintaining that high level of quality.
As John Harbaugh will tell you, Rutgers boasts “ridiculous statistics” on kickoff coverage. Aaron Young headlines a group of uber-athletic returners. Snapping the ball is Billy “Beast” Taylor, a man who’s hands are made of steel and who’s blood runs colder than ice.
All this said, as we all know, the heart and soul of every team, special or not, is the holder, especially in the Big Ten. Fortunately, Rutgers boasts a front-runner for the Mortell Holder of the Year award in the ultra athletic, super precise, clockwork-consistent Cole Murphy.
A. What We’ve Written About Rutgers This Offseason
Just can’t keep our name out your mouth...
B1G 2019 // Rutgers Cocktail Party Preview: S&P+ and Chances for Rutgers
B1G 2019, Rutgers Potluck #1: Fixing Rutgers and Sloppy Joes
B1G 2019 // You Don’t Want Rutgers Football On Your Schedule
B1G 2019 // Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blitz Heavy
Offensive Food, Offensive Offense? // B1G 2019: Rutgers Potluck #2
Rutgers gets Texas Tech QB transfer McLane Carter AND a new tight end. Will it make a difference?
Better Know a B1G Blog, with On the Banks: What’s it like to be a Rutgers fan?
OTE Staff Predictions: Rutgers // B1G 2019, Rutgers Potluck #4
Just say no to Rutgers! (editor’s note: I’d be so mad if this one weren’t so good)
State of the Union: Rutgers Scarlet Knights Football 2019 Preview Podcast // B1G 2019
B. What We Can Learn From Pop Culture
If it pleases the jury, the defense would refer you to every great sports film of our generation. Are these movies about the best teams winning more games in another ho hum season of dominance fueled by decades of revenue disparity? Or are they about the plucky underdog skirting disaster by fighting against near impossible odds to snack victory from the jaws of defeat?
I would offer that the 2019 Rutgers Scarlet Knights are the modern manifestation of Rudy. Of the Titans. Of Vince Papale.
We are the underdog the nation wants to root for.
C. Pending Docket
Friday Aug. 30 vs. UMass
Saturday Sep. 7 at Iowa
Saturday Sep. 14 OFF
Saturday Sep. 21 vs. Boston College
Saturday Sep. 28 at Michigan
Saturday Oct. 5 at Maryland
Saturday Oct. 12 at Indiana
Saturday Oct. 19 vs. Minnesota
Saturday Oct. 26 vs. Liberty
Saturday Nov. 2 at Illinois
Saturday Nov. 9 OFF
Nov. 16 vs. Ohio State
Saturday Nov. 23 vs. Michigan State
Saturday Nov. 30 at Penn State
The defense would offer that Liberty and UMass are locks. 2 wins.
While BC, Maryland, Indiana and Illinois will provide stiff challenges, Rutgers will win 3.
Finally, after a rough stretch to end the season, RU clinches bowl eligibility with a win for the ages in Happy Valley. 6 wins and Ash is back for 2020.
III. Emotional Plea
It’s easy to feel animosity towards Rutgers. We’re the ones who tipped over the proverbial apple cart, despite not having the football history of Penn State or the recent hoops success of Maryland. We won the realignment lottery harder than anyone ever has (RIP UConn). We then had a few awkward growing up years. We get it.
Sooner or later though, the Sleeping Giant is going to do the conference proud. We’ll make that big third down stop at the end of the game. We’ll have that undefeated season with a diverse squad of misfits. We’ll block that punt that swings the season.
Don’t look at Rutgers as the misfit cousin who married into the family. Look at us as the plucky underdog trying to win against impossible odds.
IV. The Verdict
Your honor I seem to have lost the record prediction from my esteemed colleagues. Just had it in my briefcase...
In any case, the fact of the matter is that the primary modality of roster construction in the 21st century is quarterback-centric (second only to holder, obviously). We may debate many things, but on this we cannot. One can argue that if the quarterback situation on a given team improves or improves greatly, then that team should enjoy a corresponding increase in greatness.
Given that at this very moment last year, freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski was preparing to play his first game of college football with zero opposition and given that at this time McLane “Big Mac” Carter was preparing to start for Techas Tex, one cannot in good conscience argue that the Rutgers’ quarterback situation is weaker this year than last.
Ergo, with a staunch defense, a talented backfield, and three All-B1G caliber specialists, the increased talent at quarterback (and maintained excellence at holder) must lead us to a singular conclusion:
B1G things are coming for Rutgers Football in 2019, its sesquicentennial year of college football.
oh there’s that record preview...
2019 Rutgers Football Schedule Prediction