If there's one reason that Rutgers is getting some preseason love in the Big East race, its certainly the layout of their conference schedule. The Knights get perceived contenders Cincy, WVU, Pitt, and USF all at home. The teams ranked sixth, seventh, and eighth in the preseason media poll? UConn (who will certainly be no pushover), Louisville, and Syracuse. Reasoning being that, if RU were to somehow run the table, that's exactly the way one would draw it up. You never know which teams will surprise or disappoint (*cough*, USF), but that's the general consensus out there at the moment.
I'm still not sure exactly to react to all of the recent hostility coming from our neighbors in Central New York. Can't they find more productive uses of their time? However, there's one underreported aspect to this story that is sure to give Orange faithful even more consternation if the Knights do end up winning their first B.E. title. After all, the Syracuse athletic department is directly responsible for Rutgers getting West Virginia at home this season. And no, it has nothing to do with the false narrative that RU and Cuse are some sort of cosmic Yin and Yang, locked in a binary deathmatch for regional supremacy.
It goes like this - back in 2005, Syracuse found itself in a bit of a scheduling pickle, in that they were poised to only have five home games. We're talking MAC territory here. It'll happen when you play road games at Notre Dame and FSU, and only receive three BE home games from the unbalanced conference schedule. That was the last year of the eleven game NCAA schedule, so they couldn't just merely add a FCS opponent to balance things out.
What ended up happening was that the 2005 contest between Rutgers and the Cuse shifted from Piscataway, and the Knights were compensated with their own second straight home game against West Virginia. The Eers were the ones who actually ended up losing a home game in the whole deal.
Also of note is that the Orange have eight home games this year, including two home dates against Big Ten teams, and a trip to Happy Valley against Penn State. A lot of commentators have poiunted out that it really would make a ton of sense if Rutgers and Syracuse could merely swap schedules this season; they could use a confidence booster against our embarrassing slate, and Rutgers needs to prove that it's for real against quality OOC opponents. However, if there ever was a year to "give back" the lost road date in Morgantown, you'd think that an eight game home slate would be the prime occasion.
I think Rutgers is going to have a good football team this year, but you should never count your chickens. 2008 proved that, once and for all. The depth chart looks stronger every year, but there are just so many variables (luck, injuries, random noise, phlogiston and vapors) that leave any sort of prediction beyond the likes of vague inclinations and context adjustments as a total shot in the dark. Hopefully, the Scarlet Knights will break into the top 25 at some point, and continue their positive momentum from the past few years, but you never know. That's what most fans in New Jersey are expecting.
If the chips do end up falling to our liking, that will likely mean that RU finally conquered its West Virginia hex, who have been the main stumbling block in recent years in the way of a conference title. If that, somehow, finally happens, I know a tremendous program who would be absolutely delighted to receive a leftover International Bowl gift basket or two.