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Rutgers Football: Athlon Sports previews the Knights, Big Ten

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Popular sports magazine Athlon Sports projects Rutgers at the bottom of the Big Ten East and 65th nationally.

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Athlon Sports released its Big Ten preview, as well as its Rutgers team preview, on Thursday.

The popular sports magazine predicts the Knights to go 5-7 overall and 1-7 in the Big Ten, finishing last in the East.  Rutgers is also the second-to-lowest nationally ranked team in the Big Ten, coming in at 65th.  The Knights are one spot behind Illinois at 64th.  Purdue, ranked 85th, is the lowest-ranked team in the conference, while Ohio State (duh) is first.

Athlon Sports' final verdict on the Knights:

No one expected life in the Big Ten to be easy for Rutgers, and losses to Ohio State, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Michigan State by a combined 180-44 score showed that the Scarlet Knights have a long way to go before they can compete with the cream of the conference crop. Rutgers' quest to reach a bowl game for the 10th time in 11 years will depend on whether Flood can find enough offense to compensate for a young defensive corps that figures to struggle against elite Big Ten competition once again.

Rutgers did receive praise for its running back and special team units. The preview cited the Knights as having "one of the deepest backfields in the Big Ten" and that they "have traditionally been a force on special teams, blocking more kicks (41) than any team in the country since the 2009 season."

Other than those two positives, the preview is bleak. However, Athlon hasn't been high on Rutgers since its move to the Big Ten.  So, perhaps, this is a good sign.  Chop Nation proved doubters wrong last year and they can surely do it again this year.

As for the rest of the preview, as expected, Ohio State dominates the predictions, as the Buckeyes are predicted as Big Ten Champions with a perfect 13-0 overall record. Ezekiel Elliott and Joey Bosa are the majority favorites for conference players of the year, while Urban Meyer is the favorite for coach of the year. Michigan's redshirt freshman Jabrill Peppers is the consensus pick for freshman of the year and Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld is highlighted as the comeback player.