The season opener is finally here! As of this morning, a little more than 12 hours until kickoff, Rutgers is listed as a 27.5 point underdog, the lowest it's been since the line opened over the summer at 33 points. Can Rutgers prove the oddsmakers wrong? Some of our contributors weigh in on how the first chapter of the 2017 season may unfold.
T.J. Jurkiewicz: For the second staring year, out Rutgers Scarlet Knights will face a dangerous Washington Huskies team to open up the season. As we ask know, last season got ugly very quickly before Rutgers put some points up late for a 48-13 final in Seattle. Many experts claim that this year's Washington team could be even better than the 2016 version, so Rutgers needs to bring their A-game if they want to keep this one respectable. Former Louisville starting quarterback Kyle Bolin will step in to take control of an offense that features tons of young yet unproven talent at the receiver position. Washington will be without preseason All-American LB Azeem Victor in this game, so Rutgers could be able to put some drives together to keep their defense fresh and keep this game interesting for a while.
On offense, Washington is led by QB Jake Browning, who will have a boatload of talented weapons to get the ball to despite losing some playmakers to the NFL Draft. The Rutgers secondary needs to step up big time to keep the Huskies from marching the ball down the field at will and hopefully they are up for the challenge.
I can't help but believe that this year's Rutgers squad will take a huge leap forward from where they were a year ago. They have brought in a bevy of graduate transfer talent with Bolin being the crown jewel to lead Jerry Kills offensive attack. I truly feel that Rutgers will be able to move the ball a bit in this one and keep it competitive for awhile before Washington pulls away late. Four touchdowns is very tempting and I'm going to fall for it here and say Rutgers loses by 24. Washington 41 Rutgers 17
Patrick Mella: The good news is that football is finally back. The bad news is I don’t see this game ending well for Rutgers. I’d love nothing more than to tell you that Rutgers somehow finds a way to win this game but I just can’t see a scenario where they pull off what would be one of the greatest upsets in program history. With so many new faces this year and a lack of body of work, there’s no way to know what you’re going to get week one. But this is why you play the games because hey, you never know right?
If you’re Rutgers you somehow need to go into halftime down one possession maybe two, to give yourself any sort of chance of pulling the game out. They’re going to need to keep the crowd in the game, limit big plays over twenty yards and try to keep Washington’s offense off the field for as long as possible.
But even so, I can’t see Rutgers being able to hang with an offense like Washington’s for all four quarters and to me that’s ok. Let’s not forget that this is a legitimate top ten team in the country that has the college football playoff within reach once again. Rutgers doesn’t need to win this game for it to be considered a victory. Come out and fight for all four quarters against a top team in the country and I think that sets a great precedent for the rest of the season. I don’t expect this to be a blowout like we saw last season from Michigan but I do expect Washington to be too much for this young Rutgers program to handle. Washington 38 Rutgers 13
Bob Cancro: When I predicted us going 5-7, this was not one of the counts on the left side of the ledger. No, the UW air attack will do well, although I think there will be better coverage and maybe even a pick. But the U-Dub offense will be too good. The Rutgers offense will be light years better than the Mehringer Mess of 2016. But not so much that they will frighten the Huskie D. It will be a "good" (as in competitive) game for a good quarter and a half. Then the better team will steadily impose its talent - if not its will - on the home team. It will be a good game to watch, but more so if you're a Huskie fan. Washington 31 Rutgers 14
Aaron Breitman: This game is much more important from an eye test perspective versus actual result on the scoreboard. Coming into the game as a four touchdown underdog and after Washington blew the doors off of the Rutgers defense in the first quarter of last season’s matchup, obviously surviving the first 15 minutes is a must. I think that the Rutgers offense will be a lot more interesting this season and that they’ll be able put some points on the board against Washington. Time of possession will be key, as Rutgers needs to produce some sustained drives to keep the ball away from Browning and the Washington offense. I don’t think the Rutgers defense will be able to stop them enough to win, but limiting big plays and making the Huskies work for their scores is key. I’m actually more concerned about stopping the run game with Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman, more than anything, as the defensive line was horrific in this area last season. I think Rutgers will show they’ve improved and represent themselves fairly well, but the Washington depth and experience will prove to be too much. Washington 37 Rutgers 20
David Brown: I think Rutgers has an up-climb battle with the Washington Huskies. This team is fresh from a College Football Playoff and they have their returning QB Jake Browning under center. I know that the Washington Huskies lost key players to suspension but the Huskies are stacked in depth and talent. Jake Browning is very careful and meticulous with the football. He threw only 9 interceptions last year. He carved up the Scarlet Knights with 287 yards and 3 TDs last year. This kid is the real deal and Rutgers must press their receivers and keep him in the pocket in order to win this game. Washington Huskies' defense is also solid which will be a daunting challenge for the offensive line.
Maybe, Kyle Bolin will have a breakout game. Maybe, the true freshmen Bo Melton will display his track speed on offense. Maybe we will see Janarion Grant return a kickoff or punt return to rally the RU Fans. However, the term "maybe" is only speculating jargon for hope not necessarily what could happen. To be honest and objectively truthful, I don't see them winning this game. Rutgers is on the right path to success but it won't be on Friday. I think the game will be more competitive than some expect but the Washington Huskies will win the game. I hope Rutgers can prove me wrong. Washington 42 Rutgers 28
Dave White: I go back and forth on this game between bleeding scarlet optimism (keeping it close) and seeing a repeat of last year. I know Washington lost two big time defensive players, so that could help the Scarlet Knights move the chains, but in true Rutgers fashion the opponent’s back-up players always step up. My real guess? Rutgers shocks Washington early, going up two scores, but the other team regains its equilibrium, remembers it’s a top ten team and beats the Rutgers faithful up for the next 3 quarters. So right now, the pessimistic side of me is winning out. Washington 52 Rutgers 13.
Cara Sanfilippo: The scarlet-bleeding Rutgers fan in me wants to say we will pull an upset. The girl who actually knows about college football, and the strengths of the Huskies team sees that this is not the case. Last I checked, Rutgers best spread for this match up was +27.5. While I agree with my colleagues that Rutgers will put up a fight, and this new offense should be far more competitive than last year, I do not believe that we will be able to put a W on the board or make it particularly close. For me, it comes down to the fact that this is a top 10 team, and I don’t know enough about this new Rutgers team to know how they will be able to pull together in game time. However, I do agree with Aaron that the real victory will be how competitive we look, and the improvements we see coming off last season. I cannot wait to kick off the season with a Janarion Grant punt return. Since I do not feel strongly about our FG potential, the Rutgers score reflects points from TDs only. Washington 40 Rutgers 21
David Anderson: I expect Rutgers to at least look competent on offense at some point, though it may not be right away. The Huskies have a strong front 4 and Rutgers does not have a strong run blocking O-line from what we know so far, so running on them will be difficult. With an inexperienced secondary, Washington may elect to keep linebackers in coverage which should allow for a little more room underneath. Washington’s offense will probably try to control the clock on the road and grind down Rutgers, so I expect a lower score than a year ago. Usually if a major team falls in one of these large point spread matchups it’s because they have a kryptonite. The closest Washington could have is against deep passes but I don’t think Rutgers is willing or able to take advantage quite yet. I see Rutgers kicking more field goals to try and see how the unit does than necessarily going for touchdowns in toss-up situations. Washington 38, Rutgers 13.
What do you think? Are we too cynical? Too optimistic? Or close to where you think the outcome will end up? Sound off in the comments. At the end of the day, we all hope Rutgers plays well tonight, giving real hope that this team is on its way to better days in 2017!