The season opener is finally here for Rutgers football and our staff got together to make our first game prediction of the 2018 campaign. The Scarlet Knights enter this contest as a little more than two touchdown favorites against the visiting Bobcats. Let’s get to our staff picks for week one.
Dave White: Games like this usually tell us very little about a team... barring catastrophe. I doubt catastrophe happens this week. I do think, as Artur Sitkowski makes his debut and gets his feet under him, this game might be a bit close in the first quarter. But soon Rutgers talent will take over, and the Scarlet Knights win this one easily. It’s football season, which also means it basketball recruits visits season soon! Rutgers 35 Texas State 10
Jim Hoffman: This is the easiest prediction I’ll make all season. I have absolutely no doubt that Rutgers will win this game. The margin, however, will say a lot about the strength of the team, and how they will do as the season progresses. Over the past few years, the first game against a “tuneup” foe is usually one where the Scarlet Knights get tagged first, and then have to fight back. I do not think that will happen this year. Rutgers will come out strong, and keep the Bobcats on their heels until the 4th quarter, when the 2nd and 3rd team takes the field and Ash rests his starters. Rutgers 48 Texas State 12
David Anderson: Normally to stay close in these perceived uneven contests, the underdog needs to exploit the favorite’s weakness. Rutgers biggest unknown is their passing offense, but the Bobcats’ biggest weakness in 2017 was their pass defense. Even though the Bobcats can probably break their streak of games without an interception against a true freshman, it won’t be enough to slow down Rutgers wideouts who have been chomping at the bit to prove themselves for months. On the flip side, Texas State will try all sorts of running plays to try and keep the game close, but Trevor Morris and Deonte Roberts have seen it all. This just seems like a bad matchup for the visitors. Rutgers 30, Texas State 13.
Matt M: In Vegas, Rutgers is currently listed as a 16.5 point favorite and the total is 47 points. A final score of 31-14 would be right about in line with those totals, but I’m expecting the difference to be in an area where Rutgers struggled last year: Big Plays. New OC John McNulty has emphasized “chunk plays” in the off-season and I expect players like Blackshear, Melton and Pacheco to break for a long TD or two early. Rutgers also carries the most experienced secondary in the country and is facing a sophomore QB with little experience. I would not be surprised if the Rutgers defense is puts 6 on the board before the game ends. My biggest concern would be if Rutgers falls behind early and is forced to rely on Sitkowski to lead a comeback in his first start. Rutgers 41, Texas State 14.
Patrick Mella: I pride myself on being a realistic Rutgers fan although it sometimes comes off as pessimistic but I really do think this will be one game Rutgers will handle quite easily. This is the best team Coach Ash has had since taking over and finally a quarterback you can build a program around. Yes he’s raw, yes he’s going to make mistakes (int’s, delay of game’s) but those are the mistakes you have to live with. I’m not expecting any kind of crazy stat line (I would guess 14-22, 175 yard, 2 td’s, 1 int’ish?). The running game should be improved and I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw Raheem Blackshear take a punt return to the house. On defense, containing Texas State quarterback Willie Jones will be priority number one for Rutgers. Jones is an excellent athlete and a player that is certainly capable of creating plays with his legs, should the pocket break down. If the defensive unit can get pressure on Jones and force him into some bad throws, the Rutgers secondary will feast on those mistakes. Rutgers 38, Texas State 13
Cara Sanfilippo: While no game is a guarantee, I agree with my friends here that Rutgers will take home a W in the first game of the season. Despite hailing from what I would consider the football capital of the country, pound for pound Rutgers is the better team on paper, and is heavily favored in the spread. I am excited to see how Arur Sitowski fares in his first college appearance, and if McNulty is able to help the offense open up the field a bit more. If the team struggles as they have in the past in the first quarter, I will be extremely concerned for the rest of the season. If we can convincingly show what should be increased talent from the first snap, I am excited to see how we can compete. Rutgers 34 Texas State 17
Namrita Singh: Definitely think Rutgers comes out on top in the season opener. I think we’ll get a sluggish first quarter but Rutgers will get rolling during the second and then throughout the rest of the game. I expect to see a strong game from both the offense and defense although I’m a little more worried about the offense. Sitkowski gets his first official start and I’m excited to see what he’s going to do, in addition to seeing all of the team’s seniors really take over this season. As long as Rutgers doesn’t have to claw their way back, they should be just fine. Rutgers 38 Texas State 16
Andy Egan: Rutgers comes out gunning with a long bomb to Melton on the first play, and jump to an early lead. Sitkowski shows he’s a freshman by throwing into double coverage on the next drive, but Rutgers holds TXST to 3. After that, the D is able to lock it down, and RU wins big, riding a heavy dose of RBs Hilliman and Pacheco and TEs Vokolek and Washington, the experienced safety valves perfect for a young QB in his first start. RU 48-3.
Aaron Breitman: I’d like to see Rutgers start fast and gain some separation from Texas State early on in this game. It will be exciting for Rutgers fans to see a brand new offense coupled with a veteran defense. Obviously, Sitkowski’s first career start will garner a lot of attention, but I want to see the younger skill position players make plays. I also expect the two tight ends, Jerome Washington and Travis Vokolek, to cause Texas State problems in the middle of the field on intermediate passes. All in all, I hope to see Rutgers put together a clean game with limited mistakes while generating some big yardage plays on offense and stifling defense on the other side of the ball. I think the Scarlet Knights win fairly easily. Rutgers 38 Texas State 10
Are we too optimistic or too conservative with this week’s predictions? Sound off in the comment section with your thoughts and own pick as well.