Game three at Kansas is upon us and as always, our staff make their picks for how we think Rutgers football will fare in the contest. After a solid win against a lesser opponent to open the season and a disappointing performance against Ohio State, this game should give a much better indication of where this team is truly at. Here are our thoughts ahead of the biggest game of the season so far.
David Anderson: Which Kansas team will show up this week? The one that ran for 56 yards against an FCS opponent or the one that once Pooka Williams was added to the lineup tallied 216 against Central Michigan? Probably be more of the latter, but the Scarlet Knights are bigger, faster, and stronger than the Chippewas. Rutgers pass defense was shredded by Ohio State, but will be better against the Jayhawks. If Rutgers offense can avoid turnovers, they should score just enough points. When in doubt in early season matchups I look at the team that has faced superior competition thus far regardless of the outcome, Rutgers for sure here. The 11 am CDT kick may slow entry of the rowdiest crowd in Lawrence since 2009 and RU should have enough with or without Sitkowski at 100%. Rutgers 23, Kansas 17
Nick Kosko: My biggest concerns with this game are that the Scarlet Knights have to travel and have to deal with Pooka Williams at running back. We know in recent seasons, Rutgers has been notoriously bad against good running backs. I don’t want to overreact based on last week’s drubbing against Ohio State, but I firmly expect this to be a sloppy game. Kansas is one of the worst programs, if not THE worst program in FBS, but Rutgers will soon take that title or join them should they lose this weekend. This is an absolute must win. As long as Artur Sitkowski stands upright and delivers the ball, Rutgers should be fine, but they need to find some sort of identity on offense. A balanced attack with Sitkowski tossing around 20-25 passes should do. I would expect Raheem Blackshear to get the bulk of the carries, mixed in with some Jonathan Hillman when they need tough yards, but I want to see Isaih Pacheco get a few more touches. The kid has talent and it needs to be utilized, especially if Chris Ash and co. are going with a near total youth movement. Look for a close one between these two teams. Rutgers 21, Kansas 14
Patrick Mella: Excuse my Allen Iverson like take on this week but….we’re talking Kansas? Kansas? Not Kansas basketball but Kansas football? Ok, I’ll stop. No disrespect to any Jayhawk fan reading this but come on, Kansas? Are we really incapable of beating what many consider the worst program in the Power Five Conference? Make no question this would be a catastrophic loss for Rutgers and one that could derail the season. I’m not going into X’s and O’s for my prediction this week. Simply put, Rutgers has the more talented squad whether or not Sitkowski and Austin are fully healthy. I don’t care what the line is, or that Rutgers is playing away after a loss, or Kansas home after a win, possibly injuries, etc. This is year three of the Ash era and time to start taking care of games like these. I’m tired of every year going over these games and saying to myself, “Yeah, Rutgers should win, but ehh you never know with them.” They just played an Ohio State team that is composed of many guys you’ll see on NFL rosters. And while they did get beat quite easily, it should make games like this seem much more manageable. If Rutgers is making progress, headed in the right direction and capable of doing damage to the schedule these next two months, they should handle this Kansas game and do so in convincing fashion. Rutgers 35, Kansas 7
Jim Hoffman: Rutgers and Kansas have gone in opposite directions so far. Rutgers had a strong showing against a weak Sun Conference team, and a terrible showing against a top five team. Kansas had a terrible showing against a weak Southland Conference (FCS) team, and a strong showing against a MAC team. For both of them, as David stated above, which Rutgers and which Kansas will show up? I think that if the Kansas that played well against Central Michigan shows up against the Rutgers who played against Ohio State last week, Rutgers still has a chance to win. Similar to Rutgers, Kansas goes up against four teams currently in the Top 25, but unlike Rutgers, they haven’t faced any to date. And their toughest opponent won’t be faced until mid-November, while Rutgers faced theirs last Saturday. I guess what I’m saying is you can’t look at the wins and losses at face value to say these are equal teams. I think Rutgers will come out of the tunnel at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium with a big ol’ chip on their shoulder, and the Jayhawks are going to take it on the chin. Rutgers 28 Kansas 10
Cara Sanfilippo: Ugh, do I have to? I am so glad I couldn’t watch last week’s game due to my bridal shower falling smack dab in the middle of it. I understand this is not a vent session, but we truly cannot score a single touchdown against the Big Ten elite? Anyway, upward and onward. This is a game Rutgers should win, and one I was counting as a W in my original season prediction. On paper, Rutgers has more talent that Kansas. I would hope they are itching for some level of vindication after being strung over the racks last week. It seems as if Sitowski will play after an injury after a careless play call by McNulty. Rutgers will need to clean up their mistakes and mental errors, and execute well to make it convincing. The defense will need to keep Pooka Williams in check, and stop big gains on the run. If they can do that, and gain some traction offensively, they should come out victorious. I will want to say the team play to win, and not super conservatively after a loss last week. If they lose, honestly, I am scared for the rest of the season. Rutgers 27, Kansas 17
Namrita Singh: Don’t want to keep repeating the others have already said. Fully expect Rutgers to win tomorrow but I don’t expect it to be by much. It’ll be sloppy and probably slow but they’ll come through. I expect them to be hungry and to come out with some fire. I’d like to see the offense get into some kind of rhythm. Limit penalties and turnovers. It is a road game and it is against Kansas but I don’t know if anything could make me feel confident in this team right now. They are an enigma. Which team will show up tomorrow? Or will we get an entirely different one? Regardless... Rutgers 24, Kansas 17
Dave White: I have no idea what to expect. Is Art Sitkowski completely healthy? Was the offensive line completely overrun by Ohio State or will holes in the line be a problem all season long? Sitkowski got hit a lot against Texas State so it’s clear the offensive line needs to improve. Kansas is riding high after a big road win last week, but Rutgers is simply more talented. The key here is the game plan and the execution. If this game were at High Point Solutions Stadium dot com dot org dot edu Arena Stadium, I’d be predicting a ten plus point win. However, a road game could be tough. This game will be close. A coin flip. Rutgers 21 Kansas 18...but I’m not confident.
Aaron Breitman: This is a big test for a Rutgers team that got torched by Ohio State 52-3 last weekend. Playing a second consecutive road game is never easy. There is no way to know how true freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski will respond after getting knocked out of the game last week on a viscous hit. The secondary is having health issues as well. However, I think the running back trio of Rutgers has success early and often in this game and the defense will bend but not break. It will be relatively close until Rutgers puts it to bed late by wearing down the Jayhawks defense. Rutgers 31 Kansas 17
What do you think about Saturday’s matchup? Are we too optimistic or too conservative? Let us know in the comment section, along with your own prediction for the game.