Rutgers football kicks off the 2016 season two weeks from today and the Las Vegas odds continue to grow larger against the Scarlet Knights by the day. The spread hovered around 21 points when the lines came out last month, but has now grown between 25 and 27 points as of today across multiple betting sites and casinos. Click here for a listing. At the end of the day, the spread means nothing to the outcome of the game, but should certainly provide another motivational tool for head coach Chris Ash to utilize. That is not to say he needs another, as there is plenty of motivation for the players this season.
Rutgers was unanimously selected to finish in last place in the Big Ten East by every major site or publication. Last season was a disaster, but a fresh start and renewed focus under Ash and the new staff seem to have reinvigorated the players. Rutgers has a veteran team that has adjusted quickly to the changes Ash has made within the program. There is no doubt they have their sight set on redemption and proving their many detractors wrong.
It all starts at #18 Washington two Saturdays from now. They have become a trendy pick to breakout this college football season, with some thinking they can win the Pac-12 outright. Vegas and many bettors agree that Rutgers will pose little challenge for the heavily favored Huskies. Hopefully, Rutgers can make this a compelling match up, in which they turn some heads by giving Washington a hard fought game.
This team will be prepared and focused when they open on the road in Seattle. However, Washington has had more time to gel under their new regime, as head coach Chris Petersen enters his third season in charge of the program. They return a talented duo on offense with sophomores Jake Browning at quarterback and Myles Gaskin at running back. They starred last season as true freshman and have instilled hope within their fan base that the team is on the rise under Petersen. For a full look at their depth chart possibilities for the game, our friends at SB Nation’s UW Dawg Pound have it covered here.
He was the head coach at Boise State for 8 seasons before his arrival and finished with an insane 92-12 record there. His tenure included two undefeated seasons and two one loss seasons, as well as two victories in the BCS Fiesta Bowl and four top ten ranked finishes.
There is no denying this opening game is about as difficult as imaginable for Ash’s debut at Rutgers. Still, there isn’t much respect being given from the national media. Jerry Palm of CBS Sports had this to say of this game when assessing Washington’s non-conference schedule:
Tell us how you really feel Jerry. With Washington close to a being a four touchdown favorite when they take the field against Rutgers, it’s likely their fans aren’t expecting much of a game. While moral victories are not something to make a practice of, entering this season with such a difficult first game and such low expectations, it would be a bit satisfying to see Rutgers give Washington a hard fought game, even with a loss. It would also signal to the Big Ten that Rutgers has the potential to be more competitive this season in league play. Of course, a win would be glorious and so satisfying, but we all need to be patient with the process and be hopeful things move in the right direction this season.
As Rutgers held their second scrimmage of training camp today, which was closed to the media and the public, they are one step closer to opening the Ash era officially beginning. The fact that this team returns so many starters from last season and are led by a more experienced coaching staff, optimism is warranted for this season. Ash has given every indication he knows what he is doing in the 8+ months since he took over, but the ultimate test will be his coaching on the field during games. Two seasons removed from leading the defense of the National Champion Ohio State Buckeyes, Ash will put on the head set as the leader of Rutgers, this time as a major underdog. It’s certainly a change for him, and hopefully a perception of the program that fades away under his tenure. For now, let’s enjoy being the underdog and hopeful that Ash can lead a turn around as quickly as his counterpart has at Washington. 14 days to Football!