September 1, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights quarterback Gary Nova (15) during their game against the Tulane Green Wave at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Rutgers won, 24-12. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook - US PRESSWIRE
It's been too long since Rutgers last played in front of a home crowd in Piscataway at High Point Solutions Stadium. A lot has changed in the last few months. There are new players, new uniforms, new freshmen to screw up the R -> U chant, and a new coach of course, yet all interested parties have taken care to stress a mantra of continuation. The team is going to be the same, but better - tweaked here and there, a little more relaxed, but this is not a break from the recent past. Who knows, but the product on the field today should be very familiar, with Rutgers waxing on a MEAC opponent in a glorified scrimmage.
Rutgers has seemingly rotated the trio of Howard, Norfolk St. and Morgan St. for the past decade. North Carolina Central gave a brief respite a year ago, but the idea was the same. A small NEAC school would come into Piscataway with its awesome band, with the football team only a momentary, tertiary distraction; running in place for 60 minutes to earn a paycheck that will keep the athletic department afloat for another season. Gary Nova will throw a few big passes, and everyone commutes home with a feeling of contentment.
As enjoyable as it is to returned to the hollowed ground on Sutphen Road, to see old friends, and make new ones, these yearly FCS games do not fool anyone into believing that they are in any way substantive. There is no downside and no upside. USF is less than a week away, with a MEAC-level opponent slotted in this week precisely towards the end of posing so little of a challenge that Rutgers will be able to easily look past them without much in the way of consequences. Today is all about working out the kinks, and not introducing any new ones. It's about laughing at the pictures of empty seats and the closed off upper deck that come out of the Meadowlands today. The game itself? USF cannot come soon enough.
Prediction: Rutgers 37, Howard 7