Tonight offers Rutgers fans the first chance to see their Scarlet Knights after months of waiting. That is a time for excitement, but at the same time, many may be already looking ahead a few weeks down the road. Tulane is projected to struggle this season starting a rebuilding project under a new coach, and dealing with the logistical problems stemming from Hurricane Isaac could not have helped their preparation this week. Still, this is a game that Rutgers is expected to win going away, and given those expectations, any other result would signify an unnerving, inauspicious start for the Kyle Flood era. If he's going to be a good coach here, you can't well start off by mirroring the last guy's penchant for random, seemingly inexplicable losses. No pressure, but anything less than a victory by double digit margins will be a disappointment.
Fortunately, there should be sufficient reasons to get Rutgers motivated tonight. Former offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca may bear the responsibility for 2010's shocking loss to Tulane, but Rutgers still received the L in the record books, and that injustice has to be remedied. A comfortable victory, regardless of opponent, will at least help the relative perception of the program, as a tight victory would raise eyebrows. The best case in point is Syracuse last year, which barely escaped the Superdome against a Tulane team that went 2-11. The Orange won the battle but lost the war, watching their season quickly fall into a tailspin following their surprise upset over West Virginia a week later. That's the risk here, beyond generic worries such as playing on the road.
This game will ideally be quick, easy, and painless, both in the figurative and literal sense. Rutgers should be winning with simple I formation and base 4-3/nickel schemes, forgoing the need for trickery with a dominant performance on both sides of the line, and needs to come home tomorrow with nothing more than minor injuries. The ideal is Rutgers backs Jawan Jamison and Savon Huggins charging ahead at 4-5 yards per play, setting up easy play action strikes from Gary Nova. Defenders like Scott Vallone need to be living in the Tulane backfield - disrupting plays directly, speeding up throws, and generally making the sixty minutes of gametime as uncomfortable as possible. That's what we need to see, and there is no reason to expect that we will not. No one can really give a fair prediction for how Kyle Flood's tenure as Rutgers coach will go, but if any bumps in the road come up, it will not be against Tulane.
Prediction: Rutgers 27, Tulane 7