It may be just a tad bit early to take a look at Rutgers Football’s 2018 schedule but I think we should do it anyway. The program will look to take big strides forward under Head Coach Chris Ash’s guidance in his third year with the team. After going 2-10 in 2016 (and 0-9 in Big Ten play) and then 4-8 in 2017, it seems as if the only logical record next season would be 6-6. So is bowl eligibility a possibility? As of now, yes. The team still has plenty of needs to address, including their QB situation (which seems to be a never-ending problem), but 6-6 (and playing in a bowl) is the next step forward.
At first glance, it looks like the team should get off to a fast start (I’m currently ignoring the Ohio State game). This is usually the point in time that I would start using the phrase “winnable games” but I no longer use that term because “winnable” doesn’t mean a whole lot anymore. But there are games at the beginning of the schedule that the Scarlet Knights are more likely to win than ones toward the end.
Here’s the breakdown:
September 1 vs. Texas State Bobcats
2017 Record: 2-10 overall, 1-7 in conference
This is the first meeting between these two teams. Texas State had just two wins this year, their home opener against Houston Baptist (20-11) and a road game against Coastal Carolina (27-7). The Bobcats have seven wins over their past three seasons combined after finishing 2014 with a 7-5 record.
September 8 @ Ohio State Buckeyes
2017 Record: 10-2 overall, 8-1 in conference
Rutgers is 0-4-0 against Ohio State and has been outscored 219-24 in that span. They’ve been shut out in their last two games against the Buckeyes, 58-0 last year and 56-0 this season. I don’t really have anything else to say other than this is Ohio State we’re talking about. I’d consider this game a win if the Knights don’t get shut out a third year in a row.
September 15 @ Kansas Jayhawks
2017 Record: 1-11 overall, 0-9 in conference
The Jayhawks’ lone win came against Southeast Missouri State in their home opener by a score of 38-16, before losing their remaining games. They went 2-10 last season, 0-12 the year prior, and 3-9 the year before that. The two teams met once back in 2015, a 27-14 Rutgers win.
September 22 vs. Buffalo Bulls
2017 Record: 6-6 overall, 4-4 in conference
Rutgers has played Buffalo a grand total of six times since 2000, the most recent match-up in 2007, and the Scarlet Knights are 5-1. Their lone loss, 34-11, came in 2002. In 2007, Rutgers won 38-3 but this could be a potentially tricky game (because I’m still trying to forget the Eastern Michigan game).
September 29 vs. Indiana Hoosiers
2017 Record: 5-7 overall, 2-7 in conference
Another game I’d like to forget. Rutgers most recently played Indiana just a few weeks back, losing 41-0, but this game will be earlier on in the year and it will be played at High Point Solutions Stadium. Overall, the Scarlet Knights are 2-2-0 against the Hoosiers. They won the first two meetings (45-23 in 2014 and 55-52 in 2015) but have lost the previous two, by a combined score of 74-27.
October 6 vs. Illinois Fighting Illini
2017 Record: 2-10 overall, 0-9 in conference
Rutgers’s first conference win of the 2017 season (and second win overall) came against the Illini, 35-24. The two teams have met four times and have split those games. Illinois won the previous meeting in 2016, 24-7. The first two games were played nearly a decade ago. If the Scarlet Knights are 5-1 or even 4-2 at this point in the season, this game could be huge. As could...
October 13 @ Maryland Terrapins
2017 Record: 4-8 overall, 2-7 in conference
Rutgers’ fourth and final win of the 2017 season came at home against the Terrapins. Overall, they are 6-7-0 against Maryland since the two teams first met back in 1920 (I know, I know). Since 2014, however, Rutgers is 2-2-0 but lost in both 2015 and 2016. Maryland also has another relatively difficult schedule next season.
October 20 vs. Northwestern Wildcats
2017 Record: 9-3 overall, 7-2 in conference
Northwestern has continued to improve over the past few seasons and proved that they’re here to stay this year. Their three losses came against Duke, Wisconsin, and Penn State but finished the season on a 7-0 run, even defeating Michigan State 39-31 in triple overtime back in October.
October 27 BYE WEEK
The bye week is appropriately scheduled next season because after this week, the Scarlet Knights play four straight Big Ten games against teams that have consistently outscored (and outplayed) them. It’s three weeks later than it was this season but it could work to their advantage, especially if they’ve already picked up six wins and are looking to continue to build on their early season success (hopefully).
November 3 @ Wisconsin Badgers
2017 Record: 12-0 overall, 9-0 in conference
And so begins a very difficult slate for Rutgers. They’re 0-2-0 against the Badgers all-time. They most recently played in 2015, a 48-10 loss on the road. Their first meeting was a 37-0 Wisconsin shutout at the Point. So yeah, this one will be fun.
November 10 vs. Michigan Wolverines
2017 Record: 8-4 overall, 5-4 in conference
Rutgers is 1-3-0 against the Wolverines all-time and has lost the last three meetings by a combined score of 162-30, including a 78-0 shutout in 2016 at home. And even though Michigan maybe hasn’t met all of the expectations placed upon them, they’re still a very tough and talented football team.
November 17 vs. Penn State Nittany Lions
2017 Record: 10-2 overall, 7-2 in conference
Please make it stop. While the Nittany Lions may look different next season, they’re still stacked and won’t make things any easier for the Scarlet Knights, who are 2-26 all-time against Penn State. Their last win came in 1988 (21-16) and the first win? 1918. Yikes. This game will be at home so I guess that’s a plus but they did get shut out 39-0 at home last season... oh dear.
November 24 @ Michigan State Spartans
2017 Record: 9-3 overall, 7-2 in conference
Last one. Rutgers is 3-6-0 all-time against Michigan State. In their most recent meeting, the Spartans defeated the Scarlet Knights at home, 40-7, in Rutgers’s final game of the 2017 season. They were shut out 49-0 the year before; the Scarlet Knights’ last win came in 2004.
So is there a possibility that the Rutgers Scarlet Knights will play in a bowl game next season? Yes. It is set in stone? No. Are there still a ton of questions that need to be answered? Also yes. I forgot where I was going with this but the Knights will have to make a ton of decisions throughout the offseason if they want to take the next step forward, which is, logically, a 6-6 record and bowl eligibility.