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OTB Staff Round Table: Predicting The 2017 Record For Rutgers Football

Our contributors give their thoughts on how year two of the Ash era will be on the field this season.

NCAA Football: New Mexico at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

What will the regular season record for Rutgers football be in 2017? Our staff lays their cards out on the table and make their predictions here.

David Anderson: I’m from New Jersey, so of course I’m a pessimist. The Scarlet Knights will go 4-8. If everything breaks right for them, 6 wins in 8 winnable games is mathematically possible, but I’m not sold that you can bank on other teams falling apart midseason, opposing quarterbacks getting injured to steal a win, or Michigan State being as bad as they were last year again. The offense will be leaps and bounds better but think of it this way, if the offense jumps 60 spots nationally in their efficiency they STILL won’t be in the top 50% of FBS teams. This is why you play the games which I look forward to in 2017. Winning four games keeps the needle moving, anything less would be considered a disappointment and reason for concern.

Jim Hoffman: I think the combination of new coaching on offense, increased strength in running as well as pass receptions, QB upgrades, and a strong defensive secondary will have an impact. Quite frankly, if Janarion Grant had not been injured, I think we would have won the Iowa game as well as the Minnesota game LAST year without those upgrades listed above, so going higher is definitely possible. I’m going with 5-7 for sure, and a possibility of 6-6 and a bowl bid. I think they will win two of the three OOC games (I’ll let you figure out which one I don’t think we can win). Couple that with wins over conference foes Illinois, Purdue, and one of either Indiana, Michigan State, or Maryland. The road to six is taking two of those last three. Now, if Coach Ash and the 2017 Scarlet Knights want to become legends, they shock the world with a win over Michigan in Ann Arbor this year. With seven starters on offense gone, and nine starters on defense, as well as their all-star punter, there may not be a better chance for a couple of years to catch the Wolverines in this type of situation.

Dave White: Last year, in the first season of the Chris Ash era, I predicted 4-8 but an optimistic 4-8. A lot of fans in the comments told me I was too pessimistic. This year, I’m predicting 4-8 and an optimistic 4-8. There is a ton of things to be excited about with this edition of Rutgers football. Chris Ash has brought in a great foundational recruiting class and a lot of those players will see time this season. The skill positions have been greatly upgraded and assuming, barring injury, Kyle Bolin and Gus Edwards see the field as starters, there should be a lot of excitement. The key, of course, is the offensive line, which might not be where Rutgers wants it to be yet. Last year, the offense couldn’t stay on the field and it exhausted the defense. This year, that has to start changing. Rutgers will be in some games they weren’t in last season and I think the blowouts will begin to stabilize. While there may be one or two (and I think playing Washington to open the season is really tough), I don’t think this season will be one where fans have to cover their eyes. Look for the team to play in a couple of nailbiters that you don’t expect and maybe one of the 4 wins will be an upset! Basically, you want this season to be the one where you start staring longingly into the future. Also, here’s a no brainer prediction: Steve Pikiell will be parading a ton of recruits through High Point Solutions stadium to keep the recruiting momentum high for the hoopers.

Bob Cancro: Hoopers? Really?

I have a friend - a Rutgers grad - who follows football pretty closely and he tells me, “I have this strange feeling about the Washington game, that Rutgers could win it.” I smiled and let the orderlies take him back to his room. To write this, I just did what a friend and I used to do for years: go through the schedule saying win that one, win that one, lose that one.... I saw my evolving results and - in shock - thought I was being too optimistic. But realistically I think the team could go 5-7. The first big test isn’t U-Dub on Sept. 1, it’s Eastern Michigan the next week. A much better team than the one we beat in 2013, they will be tough. Win that one first and five wins is very manageable. The offense is the key: put some points on the board and give the D a chance to breathe. Jerry Kill seems very comfortable and very much in control. If the O-line protects and opens a few holes, we’ll be in good shape. On the loss side, I don’t see us beating OSU, PSU, or you-know-who (Mr. Khaki). Or Nebraska. But the other conference games I feel are up for grabs. Yeah, I’m good with 5-7 and wouldn’t we have all signed on for that after last season!

Patrick Mella: Back to back two win seasons would be disappointing to say the least, but I think three to four wins is more likely with anything over that being exceeding expectations. There are too many question marks going into this season for me to go higher than four wins. I know it’s difficult to be patient and ultimately at some point you have to see the win total go up, I just think they’re still a few years away from developing Jonathan Lewis and continuing to bring in top talent on both sides of the ball.

But there’s still a lot to be excited about this year. On offense, I’m especially looking forward to seeing Gus Edwards run the ball and for one of the young wide receivers to emerge as a compliment to Janarion Grant. My concerns lie in the offensive line’s ability to protect Bolin and remain healthy for a full season. Everything starts up front, without that the rest is irrelevant. But if they can control the line of scrimmage, run the ball effectively and keep Bolin upright, they could squeak out an extra win or two.

My biggest reason for limiting the win total this year has to do with the defense. Giving up an average of 264 rushing yards per game is an astounding amount that must come down this year. We know the potential of Kemoko Turay but injuries have hindered his ability to take that next step to truly being a game changer. The corners should be the strength of the defense but even the best corners can’t cover forever. We’re going to need to see significant changes before you can start upping the win total.

The program overall though is headed in the right direction. The recruiting is coming together and it does seem like the staff and players truly have bought into Coach Ash. Just keep in mind this is a work in progress and it’s not going to happen overnight. 4-8 seems completely realistic with anything over four wins being icing on the cake. For bonus points I’ll go with conference wins versus Nebraska and Maryland.

David Brown: The Rutgers Scarlet Knights may be the ultimate dark horse in the B1G. The past two seasons doesn't portray much progress but this team is heading into the right direction due to Chris Ash's proactive actions during the offseason.

The new hire of Jerry Kill was a power move by Ash which he can serve as an experienced offensive coordinator and a mentor to Chris Ash when it comes to the head coach position. Janarion "Batman" Grant's return to the Scarlet Knights will lift the team to tremendous heights with his dynamic talent on offense and special teams. He's the heart and soul for Rutgers and will be the ultimate playmaker for them. The secondary will be elite this year with Blessaun Austin leading the way. The addition of QB Kyle Bolin will give Rutgers a serviceable QB that can keep the offense efficient and productive. The freshmen class may be the most talented players in Rutgers recent memory. I expect Bo Melton, Tyshon Fogg and Micah Clark to make an immediate impact this year. Watch out for Johnathan Lewis because he may make an appearance and a significant facet to Kill's offense.

Chris Ash did say "don't sleep on us" as a message to the fans. I am not sleeping on the Knights. My prediction is 5-7 and that they’ll compete in more games this season. They might sneak in a bowl game.

Namrita Singh: The only expectation I have for Rutgers football going into the upcoming season is progress. Any signs of life would be much appreciated. The program is headed in the right direction, and I'm excited to see both the team and individual players take steps forward. Both the offense and defense look steadier, and don't forget about special teams. This season might not be all that bad (or at least as bad as last year) and I'm hoping for some good games my senior year of college.

I'm predicting a 4-8 record for the Scarlet Knights, which is a definite improvement over 2-10. 4-8 might not look like a great record (okay fine, it's not) but it would be a welcome one. I think they'll start off this season similar to last. After dropping their opening game last season to the Huskies, 48-13, I don't think they'll fare much better this year but you know I'll still be there with my student lottery ticket in hand. The student section has a jacuzzi; why would I not be in attendance? I think (I hope) they win their next two games against Eastern Michigan and Morgan State, both home games as well, and then begins their long B1G stretch (here's your not-so-friendly reminder that they went 0-9 against B1G opponents last season). But I think they'll turn things around (slightly).

They'll win (at least) two of those games (not telling which ones) but a win against Illinois on my birthday would be nice. Purdue and Maryland are both winnable games as well. I was debating a 5-7 record but I would rather be pleasantly surprised than disappointed. My hopefully not-so-bold prediction is that the team won't be shut out even once this season. And who knows? Maybe they'll surprise us all and go Bowlin'.

RutgersNation: I am confident that Rutgers will show significant improvement this season, improving their record to 5-7. Offensively the Scarlet Knights have a good balance of senior leadership (Janarion Grant, Dorian Miller, Robert Martin) and young talent (Tariq Cole, Bo Melton, Jawuan Harris). Additionally, the Scarlet Knights added much needed athleticism and experience through the use of the graduate transfer rule with additions of Louisville quarterback Kyle Bolin, Miami running back Gus Edwards, and Arkansas wide receiver Damon Mitchell. Don't forget about transfer tight end Jerome Washington who was a traditional transfer from Miami.

Kyle Bolin is the most proven quarterback Rutgers has seen in two years. Bolin lost the starting quarterback job to Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, but still amassed 2,104 career passing yards and a 140.8 passer rating. If the running back trio of Robert Martin, Gus Edwards, and Josh Hicks can get the ground game going, it will open up the passing game for playmakers like Janarion Grant.

Defensively the Scarlet Knights return 8 starters, anchored by cornerback Blessuan Austin who had the most pass break-ups in 2016 since Logan Ryan in 2012. The return of Kemoko Turay is very important to a defensive line that registered only 21 sacks in 2016.

Scott Logan: After last season's parade of misery and humiliation, there's really nowhere to go but up... right? Forget bowl eligibility - the hope for this year has to be progress. Defensively, I have high hopes, particularly in the secondary we've heard so much about. Those guys were put through the ringer early in their careers, but they represented a glimmer of hope in what was otherwise a lost 2016 season, and they should be an even bigger bright spot on this 2017 squad. Offensively, I’m very optimistic, despite the plethora of unknowns. The return of Janarion Grant obviously breeds hope, and by all accounts, Kyle Bolin has fit in very well this team. I’m also interested to see how fellow newcomers Gus Edwards and the Mitchell brothers (fingers crossed Ahmir makes it back this year) will work with returning weapons like Harris, Hicks, Martin, etc.

With four legit title contenders on the schedule I'm not expecting a much-improved win-loss record, but eliminating the 78-0 and similar fiascoes would be a good start. Still, I think (hope) they’ll be good enough to get past Eastern Michigan and Morgan State, and maybe sneak in a couple conference wins over, say, Purdue and Illinois. I’ll be satisfied with 4-8 – and no national embarrassment losses.

Griffin Whitmer: I’ve gone back and forth a lot about expectations for this season, but keep coming back to fact that this team is better than last year, but still not really good.

The offense will definitely be better, as it is better in literally every area and Kyle Bolin is a step up from any Rutgers quarterback from the last 2 seasons. The slower tempo will also keep the defense fresh and cause it to be more effective. Damon Mitchell and Jerome Washington will be Bolin’s two favorite targets, as they are both big pass catchers. Gus Edwards and Robert Martin make a really good combo and the offensive line is also improved. Rutgers should once again look like a real offense after taking 2016 off.

As for the defense, run defense is a huge concern once again. There are three new starters on the defensive line, including Kemoko Turay, who I am still not sold on as a three-down player. The move to defensive end for Kevin Wilkins gives them much more size, but there is still a glaring weakness on the other side. I’m a huge fan of Deonte Roberts and think he is one of the best linebackers in the Big Ten. Trevor Morris is still unproven, as he was incredibly inconsistent last year. At the strong side/hybrid spot, I don’t have a ton of confidence in Ross Taylor-Douglas, as the coaching staff was scrambling after Tyreek Maddox-Williams went down with a torn ACL. The secondary is really good, but that won’t matter if teams continue to run the ball 45 times a game against the Knights.

I think Rutgers goes 4-8 and shows significant progress and lays a great foundation for what should be a strong 2018 season.

Aaron Breitman: I’m confident Rutgers will be improved this season, but how their record shakes out has been a daily debate in my head for months. I firmly believe Ash had a great offseason in upgrading the coaching staff and the roster through several key grad transfers. The reality is though, this team has a lot of work to do in demonstrating major progress on the field. I’m concerned about both lines, in terms of having enough talent and depth.

While the offense has the potential to be much improved and I have little doubt that Jerry Kill will be much more prepared with his game plans, the entire unit is largely unproven, with the exceptions of Janarion Grant, and to a lesser degree, Robert Martin. And Grant has to shake off the rust from missing so much time in returning from his injury. While progress has been made through recruiting and the talented newcomers will bring excitement, remember that there will be some growing pains with so many freshmen seeing action this season.

With all that being said, I expect improvement from all three units and think Rutgers will be more competitive due having a lot more frontline talent this season. Of course, potential injuries could really weaken the roster and its depth. Look at what happened last year, when the team lost three starters by week 5. The wheels fell off.

And yet I keep going back to the schedule and think it’s set up as well as it can be for Rutgers living in the Big Ten East. I wrote in June that the key to the season is the two game stretch in mid October against Illinois and Purdue, which comes directly off of a bye week. If Rutgers can survive September mostly healthy, they can win those games. That would mean being 4-3 with Maryland and Indiana still on the schedule, two teams I don’t think will be as good as projected. I keep going back to last season and as painful as it was at times, Rutgers lost to three Big Ten bowl teams by only one score each (Iowa 14-7; Minnesota 34-32; Indiana 33-27). Throw in how hard this program worked in the offseason and how better prepared everyone, including Ash, is heading into year two, and I believe it pays off with a 5-7 record.

There you have it from our contributors. Now it’s your turn. Vote in our poll and sound off in the comments.


What Will The 2017 Regular Season Record Be For Rutgers Football?

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