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Time for Rutgers Football Previews: Athlon Sports

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New day, different magazine, same result

Iowa v Rutgers Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The other day we started our review of the college football preview magazines with a post on Street & Smith’s view of Rutgers and the Big Ten. Today we continue with a look at Athlon Sports’ preview.

The Good: Robert Martin is on the cover! Well, so is Maryland’s Jermaine Carter, Jr. And it’s pretty clear that there are regional issues of the magazine. But Robert Martin is on the cover!

And there will be progress, according to the prediction. While the Knights will still finish last in the East, Athlon sees a 3-9 record with a 1-8 B1G finish.

Key players: Athlon focuses on Gio Rescigno, Janarion Grant, and Jawuan Harris. They admit that Rescigno may be a placeholder, and they don’t even mention Bolin from Louisville (likely went to press before he signed). To say that Grant was “sorely missed” is an understatement, and virtually everyone who reads thios blog agrees he is a critical piece to generating.....uhh, anything. And Harris was the team leader in receptions and yardage. Can you say, ‘get him the ball’.

Spoiler alert

Recruiting: Athlon fell that Ash did a good job, especially considering the record and the pending NCAA investigation. “Chris Ash hit just enough of his key need spots to make this a sucessful class on paper.” They like QB Jonathan Lewis who, as they say, “will be fast-tracked to a starting job - if not this season, then soon enough.”

From Athlon’s list of Top 30 Big Ten signees, RU had just one, Micah Clark at No. 28. Ohio State had the top three and seven of the top ten.

Coaching: Is Chris Ash crazy? As they comment, finding a silver lining wasn’t easy after last season’s pummelings. But Ash felt that, after reviewing film and digesting everything, the Knights could have won four conference games (Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana, and Illinois. “A lot of people think we’re a long way off,” said Ash. “We’re not.”

They’re also big on Purdue’s hiring of Jeff Brohm to replace the fired Darrell Hazell. “It was a real coup for the Boilermakers to lure him from Western Kentucky, where he was 30-10 in three years...His teams ranked in the top10 nationally in total offense in all three years....

Around the Big Ten: Like Street & Smith’s, Athlon predicts the Knights to finish last in the B1G East. And also like S & S, it has Ohio State and Wisconsin winning their divisions and playing for the B1G title. The Big Ten East predicted finish: 1) OSU 2) Penn State 3) Michigan 4) Michigan State 5) Indiana 6) Maryland 7) Rutgers

All Big Ten: Janarion Grant....can I get an “Amen!”

Grant is the only Rutgers player on Athlon’s First Team, offense or defense. He is ranked as a Kick Returner. And you want to know how good Grant is? He made Second Team as a Wide Receiver and Punt Returner. The only other RU player is OL Tariq Cole on the Third Team offense.

Ohio State has seven players combined on the First Team offense and defense, more than any other team.

National Rankings and the Big Ten: Quick note first: Athlon sees nine Big Ten teams making the post-season, with Ohio State beating Florida State in the National Semifinal (Rose Bowl) and meeting (yawn) Alabama in the CFP Title game.

National rankings? Okay, as I wrote previously, “#$%$# Nick Saban and the crimson elephant he rode in on.” Yes, ‘Bama is predicted No. 1 with the Buckeyes No. 2. Among Big Ten teams, Athlon sees Penn State at No. 6, Michigan No. 10, and Wisconsin at 12. Rutgers shows up at No. 91 nationally, one better than No. 92 Illinois.

Interesting notes: They ran a piece titled “His Own Man” about Jim Harbaugh. But the teaser on the cover and in the table of contents referred to “Harbaugh’s Honeymoon”. I don’t think anyone thinks Harbaugh is on the hot-seat, unless he implodes - always a possibility. I think to get a sense of Coach Nutjob, look at a quote that Athlon highlighted:

This past season is as close to being perfect as any team I’ve ever been on without being perfect, as we lost two games by one point and then we lost a third game, a championship game in overtime, by three points. But good, glad we lost them. And maybe that’ll make us better, that’ll be the thing that pushes us and motivates us to do a better job.

Keep in mind that Harbaugh doesn’t have an FBS-level conference championship on his resume. Not perfect.

And for the record, Athlon has two Big Ten teams in its “on the decline” list, Michigan and Nebraska. Don’t get too excited, though; the fact that UM has to replace a bunch of talent “all but assures short-term regression.”

And add Illinois to the declining list. In its Editors’ Roundtable, they point out the recent struggles of the Illini and how they will have to compete with the strong hires made within the division by Minnesota and Purdue.

Opposing Coaches Sizing Up Rutgers: From various anonymous Big Ten coaches:

  • The most positive thing you can find right now is that they’ve gone out and sold themselves well in recruiting. ‘Come here and pklay right away in the Big Ten.’ That’s the sell. They’re committed to blowing everything up. What worked for the program happened outside of the Big Ten, and they haven’t done anything since they got here. So they’re committed to Chris Ash and committed to doing everything different because they have to.
  • It’s a coin flip which side of the ball needs more work, but they could end up starting a freshman at quarterback, so offense might be it. Jerry Kill can help a lot, and that move is a good reflection on Ash as a head coach.
  • They don’t look like a Big Ten program on defense. They need everything up front - more size, more technique, more athleticism.

I could go on but, you know, why?

Ranking Units: Who has the best unit at each position? Do not hold your breath waiting to hear “Rutgers”. Here are the best in the conference with Athlon’s ranking of Rutgers’ unit in parentheses after each:

  • QB: Ohio State (RU 14)
  • RB: Penn State (12)
  • Receivers: Penn State (12)
  • O Line: Iowa (13)
  • D Line: Ohio State (14)
  • LB: Iowa (13)
  • DB: Ohio State (12)

Coming up next: Lindy’s

Previous: Street & Smith’s