Coming off a shutout at the hands of Ohio State and a bye week to re-evaluate several positions including at quarterback, Rutgers comes into this game in desperate need for an offensive spark. The potential change at quarterback will grab the headlines but the real difference maker could be their crafty wide receiver’s return to the lineup.
Enter Janarion Grant, who will finally return to the lineup after sitting out two weeks with concussion like symptoms. Rutgers has struggled finding any sort of continuity on the offensive side of the ball. Coach Kill has made it clear that he wants to slow the game down by running the ball but all too often Rutgers is put into passing situations where they lack a big time playmaker to go to. Whether it’s a quick slant, deep ball or in the return game, Grant can truly be a game changer. Frankly, Rutgers needs to get the ball in his hands as much as possible.
There’s no question that Grant is Rutgers’ best playmaker and opposing defenses are aware of this. I fully expect teams to adjust by directing punts out of bounds and putting their best corner on him for the duration of the game. But if nothing else, the addition of Grant creates a dynamic on the offensive side of the ball that has been lacking for most of the season. And while the starting quarterback is still unknown, wouldn’t it be a great opportunity on the first play of the game to take a shot deep down field to Grant? To get him involved in the game immediately and possibly catch a less than stellar defense sleeping? I think it’s worth a shot. You could set the tone early and force Illinois to respect the pass, something we have not seen all year.
If the Rutgers offense was ever going to have a breakout game, this would be the week to do so, as they’ll be facing a team ranked dead last in the Big Ten in total defense. Also keep in mind that while Rutgers did fall to Illinois last year, they were without the services of Grant, who was out for the season at that point with an ankle injury.
Rutgers will have several factors in their favor this year. Not only do they have their best player back in the lineup this time around, they are coming off an extra week to prepare, plus the possibility of a new face at quarterback. This should at least give a glimmer of hope that this offense can do enough to pick up its first Big Ten win in quite some time.