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Rutgers Preview, this time from the "World Wide Leader"

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Pre-season magazines generate all kinds of buzz and interest. We started yesterday with Athlon's assessment of Rutgers and the Big Ten. Today we look at ESPN.

NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

National magazine previews are out, and we're taking a look at a few and how they assess Rutgers' chances in its third season in the Big Ten.  Yesterday, we looked at Athlon Sports' take on the Knights.  Today, it's the "World Wide Leader".  New day, new magazine, same results.

ESPN puts the Knights last in the East Division, coming up with 4.8 wins (their FPI - projection), likely beating Howard, New Mexico, Illinois, and Indiana.  That based on the FPI.  The Football Power Index (FPI) is a "predictive measure of team strength that represents how many points a team is above or below average."  And apparently it isn't too bad a measure.

Key players: Darius Hamilton.  "Hamilton will help stabilize the defensive front, especially if the senior returns to 2014 form."

Kemoko Turay:  They talk about him as an X-Factor, so productive in 2014 and then, due in part to injuries, disappearing last season.  "The new staff's ability to harness his 2014-level play will be crucial for a team that sorely missed a pass rush last year."

Recruiting:  There's a list on ten "Instant-Impact Freshmen" put together by Tom Luginbill.  Four are from the Big Ten, including No. 1 Rashan Gary.  "Hands down, Gary is the most important defensive freshman addition this year....will be in contention to start from day one."

Opposing Coaches Sizing Up Rutgers:  This is interesting.  And scary.

On Laviano:  "He either sees the rush or doesn't see it at all.  There was no in-between.  He struggled with recognition of what was coming at him...so we knew he was going to get whacked a lot."

On Ash's defense: I don't see his defense being much different than it was at Ohio State, Arkansas and Wisconsin.  But he doesn't have an East Coast staff and he's not an East Coast guy."  And I have no idea what that means.

On Mehrenger's offense (a Tom Herman disciple):  "Coach Herman's system - whether at Rice, Iowa State or Houston - has proven to be solid.  They have running backs that can play, but I'd worry about that O-line.  We imposed our will a little bit against them."

Around the Big Ten: ESPN thinks Michigan will win the East with Nebraska topping the West.  As Athlon wrote, Nebraska just had too many bad bounces and tough losses in 2015; it's bound to change. As for the Maize and Blue, they write, "The Jim Harbaugh effect is real....In year 2, it owns an edge in experience over fellow East powers Ohio State and Michigan State."

In predicting post-season awards, ESPN has Michigan's Jabrill Peppers as a candidate for the Nagurski/Bednarik Top Defender award.  OSU's J.T. Barrettt, who appears on the magazine cover in these parts, is in line for the Davey O'Brien Top QB nod.

Eight B1G players make their pre-season All American list.  On offense: Jake Butt (TE Michigan), Pat Elflein (OG OSU), and Dan Feeney (OG Indiana).  On defense: Malik McDowell (DT MSU), Jabrill Peppers (LB), Raekwon McMillan (LB OSU), Jourdan Lewis (CB Michigan) and Desmond King (CB Iowa).

And, if you hadn't noticed, we face every one of them this season.

All Big Ten: Not one Rutgers player made the pre-season All Big Ten squad.  Not even Janarion Grant, although they do point out he was one of only six players in the past ten years to return both a punt and a kickoff for a TD in the same game.

National Rankings and the Big Ten: ESPN puts Alabama in the top spot and two Big Ten teams, Michigan and Ohio State, in the Top 10, .  Two other conference schools (Michigan State at 16 and Iowa at 23) round out ESPN's Top 25. Preseason, there are no Big Ten teams in the College Football Playoff.  And we'll look at that next.

The Schedule: No Big Ten teams in the CFP?  No problem for us; ESPN thinks Washington could make the cut, facing Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl semi-final.  They feel Rutgers has a .2% (that's point two!) chance of winning the B1G East, the same as Maryland.  Their Football Power Index for Rutgers is at 74, one spot behind Maryland and two behind Illinois.  By comparison, Michigan is at 11.

Interesting note: Using ESPN's Football Power Index, the Big Ten is the only P5 conference outside the top 50 in strength of schedule.  It's average SOS rank is 54.  The others?

ACC: 33    Big 12: 36    PAC 12: 22    SEC:  19

Coming up: Lindys Sports, Sporting News

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