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Rutgers Football: OTB Staff Predictions for the Season

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Andy Egan When I look at the schedule this year, I see the potential that the Scarlet Knights could be vastly improved, and still end up with a worse record than last year, even after going 4-0 out of conference (the Dread Pirate Leach's squad is the only close game in that slate). The B1G stretch from Oct 10 to Nov 14 is brutal, complete with the two most difficult crossover games possible, @Wisconsin and hosting Nebraska. That said, I love what I have seen from this team in terms of chemistry and leadership, as well as seemingly answering some questions at positions of need: particularly OL, CB and LB. We also have one of the deepest backfields in the league, if not the country and more than capable explosive receivers. If we have decent QB play and a line that can keep him upright, look out above. I think this team is going to play hard-nosed gritty football, take care of the teams we are supposed to handle (not something we could say with confidence in the Schiano era) and surprise one of the big boys we lost to last year to end up 8-4. Here's my breakdown: Norfolk and WSU are wins at home to set up a big game in State College in primetime. The Knights pull off a close win in Nit-ville and smash Kansas at home, before taking on Sparty under the lights in Piscataway - I think that game will be a much better showing than last year, but I still think it ends up a double-digit loss, putting the Knights at 4-1. Indiana is a win, the Buckeyes and Badgers are losses, making the record 5-3. I think the fourth loss comes at Michigan - they never lacked for talent, and I think Harbaugh will have them ready for that in the Big House. After that, I think Rutgers wins out, including beating Nebraska close at home, followed by Army and Maryland (who will go 4-8 this year and be totally out of contention by Thanksgiving). Say hello to the Holiday Bowl in sunny San Diego on December 30.

Bob Cancro:  The big question for me is, do I channel Ray Ransom and predict 12-0?  Or do I face reality?  I've had my coffee so here's the truth.  We go 7-5.  This will not be a 4-0 start.  A lot depends on development: how fast, how far?  That goes for the QB - whoever it may be, and I believe it will be both for the first two games - and a slew of other positions.  Like others, I'm concerned about the relative newness of the DBs, but I think it could be very sound as the season progresses. We have been blessed by Saint Delany of Rosedale with the Death Schedule again, and that will prevent us from looking better than we actually are in conference.  Sorry guys, I don't think we beat ttfp....this year. Close, but no cigar. So we'll be 3-1 as we welcome Michigan State to Piscataway, a game we will probably lose.  It's a roller coaster for the rest the season. Beat Indiana, lose to OSU, lose at Wisconsin, win at the Big House.  I told you I had my coffee - I didn't say what was in it.  We drop the Nebraska game at home, but I think it could be a very close game (Griffin, you can ignore these predictions when you check post-season.)  But we then win at Army and close out the season with a solid not-come-from-behind win vs. the Twerps.  And I agree with Andy: plan on spending the Holidays in sunny San Diego.  The Michigan and/or Nebraska games could go either way, but I think we still finish at 7-5.  Our record won't be much better than it was in 2014, but we should play better.  One of the BTN guys said this looks like a Big Ten team.  I like that, and I like the attitude and toughness of the team. #FloodStrong

Griffin Whitmer: I have only had two records on my mind for the 2015 season: 8-4 and 4-8. This team will either be really good or really not so good. I just can't find any middle ground. I think this team has a great balance of young and old talent and is the baddest team that Kyle Flood has ever had. To be honest, the offensive line isn't a huge concern to me because there is talent there, just not continuity. Rutgers is crazy deep at HB and WR and a great QB could pull it all together. I think Nakia Griffin-Stewart emerges as the top TE and gives Hayden Rettig a safety blanket. The secondary will have its growing pains and most likely get torched once or twice. However, by the end of the season I think the defense becomes very good. The I can't help but go the optimistic route and peg the Scarlet Knights for an 8-4 campaign and a trip to Nashville in the postseason!

Dave White: I have no idea. Looking at the season, I tried to pick a couple of upsets and still came up with 6-6 at best.  I'm going to go with 5-7, but long time On the Banks readers know I'm the kiss of death and all of my predictions end up being the complete opposite of what happens so don't yell at me and watch some football.

Aaron Breitman: It should not be a surprise that I am predicting big things for this season, as I am the guy who wrote this.  Words to describe this team have been toughness, physicality, and playing with an edge.  It's one thing if it comes from the coaching staff, it's another when it is said by observers such as the BTN analysts on their recent visit. Remember, they had doubts regarding this team before last season began and we know how that turned out.  Senior leadership is arguably the strongest it has been since 2006 and 2012, both 9+ win seasons and our two best teams in the last decade.  Let's not forget talent.  It's the deepest backfield I remember Rutgers ever having, along with a strong receiving core.  As Griffin said, with the offensive line, there is no shortage of talent and size is improved.  Our defense got bigger, stronger and faster.  Kemoko Turay has a year under his belt, Kaiwan Lewis is an upgrade at MLB and Blessaun Austin may be our most talented newcomer.  And I believe in Hayden Rettig.  I think he is prepared, talented and ready.

Are we going to seriously threaten Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin?  I don't think so, as those programs are far and away the class of the conference and have been built up over the last few years.  However, every other team on our schedule has question marks regarding personnel.  TTFP and Michigan are difficult road games.  Once you get past the mystique of their legendary programs though, remember we beat one of them and blew it against the other last season.  We are better this year, as are they, but it comes down to grit, passion, fire.  I believe this may be our team's best trait this season.  It's worse to be doubted a second year in a row, making the positive results from a season ago rendered meaningless by the "experts". And the cherry on top is the team has their coach to fight for, above all. The non-conference schedule should be a victory sweep. We will prove we are a level above Maryland and Indiana two years in a row. Nebraska at home along with Michigan and TTFP on the road are the three games that will define whether this is a average, good or great season.    Go big or go home as they say, I'm all in at 9-3. Keep New Year's Day open on the calendar, it's either the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl or the Outback Bowl.  We will eat well either way, making it a win win!!

Scott Logan: I see no reason to believe Rutgers won't go bowling for the tenth time in eleven years. The presence of Leonte Carroo and the emergence of Andre Patton and Janarion Grant should help make the transition from Gary Nova to Hayden Rettig fairly painless. Plus, the running game should be filthy this year as long as the new-look offensive line gives them something to work with. Defensively, the front seven looks strong, but I'm worried about the secondary. There's a lot of inexperience back there, and we don't even know if top corner Nadir Barnwell will be eligible to play this season. Hopefully the promising Kiy Hester and juniors Delon Stephenson and Anthony Cioffi can provide some stability in the defensive backfield.

As the other guys have noted, the schedule is unforgiving at times. But the non-conference bunch shouldn't be much of a challenge. Norfolk State will be a laugher. Army is a win. While Rutgers won last year's game with Washington State by a slim margin, this year the Cougars come to Piscataway, and talented quarterback Connor Halladay is no longer under center for them. As for Kansas, Rutgers has been on a homecoming losing streak for a few years. But Kansas is very, very bad. This is the year the streak ends.

With the Big Ten schedule, things get a little (read: MUCH) tougher. While a colossal upset at home of Michigan State or Ohio State would be nice, I'm not holding my breath. Heading to Wisconsin, especially after the rough performance against them last year, doesn't have me very confident either. I think Rutgers' best chance at an upset comes against Nebraska. Home game. New coach. No more Abdullah. It's not out of the realm of possibility. Penn State and Michigan will be tough road tests, but I tentatively see Rutgers escaping one of them with a win. Indiana and Maryland should be victories, especially with the Terps coming to us this year.

I think 7-5 seems realistic. Rutgers is Bronx-bound for the Pinstripe Bowl once again, where they get revenge on Louisville for stealing that BCS bowl bid from them in 2012.

Ray Ransom: I wrote a little bit about my predictions for the Rutgers season in my 2015 postmortem for Off Tackle Empire. On the field, this team has massive potential, but massive unknowns. I expect this team to have some growing pains breaking in a new QB and an inexperienced secondary, to end up 7-5 and going bowling, with bright things on the horizon. That said, this could be the team that surprises the world and makes a big run. Remember that 2006 team? Young QB, powerhouse RB, talented receivers, playmaking defense? There are certainly key differences, but I think the upside for the 2015 Knights is significant.

Off the field, this is the year that Kyle Flood gets his due. He is cleared of any wrongdoing in Emailgate, continues to be one of the winningest coaches in the Big Ten (see winning records), and sets himself up to be considered and paid as one of the top coaches in college football once Rutgers' full share of Big Ten revenue kicks in. Bold prediction time: the investigation does reveal some wrong-doing, specifically on the conduct of our suddenly silent Athletic Director, who is forced to resign in a cloud of media hysteria, lead by Dr. Sensational, Steve Politi himself. In turn, Politi is fired from the Star Ledger and joins Hermann at a local farm school in Happy Valley, PA. Pernetti is reinstated as AD and Schiano is appointed Associate Athletic Director: Football Operations.

Wow...That one got away from  me a little...

On behalf of the OTB staff, settle down Ray!