It’s finally here, the opening game of the 2019 Rutgers football season! Our staff made several season predictions earlier this week here and with the Scarlet Knights currently 15.5 point favorites, our handicapping expert T.J. Jurkiewicz broke down the line here. Once again, our staff got together again to make our picks for tonight’s home opener against UMass.
Who will play at quarterback the majority of the time, Artur Sitkowski or McLane Carter? Will Do we think Rutgers will steamroll the visiting Minuteman and end the nation’s worst 11 game losing streak? OR do we plan to sweat this game out to the very end? Will the defense led by Tyshon Fogg stifle the new look UMass offense? So many questions yet to be answered and we took our best shot on what they ultimately will be.
Let’s kick things off and find out.
Dave White: All right, let’s be honest. I know nothing about UMass. There was no way I was following them and their football offseason. I imagine they’re not good, but they could be hiding the football version of Marcus Camby on their roster somewhere. I think Rutgers wins this one, but I don’t think it’s pretty. Rutgers gets put through the meat grinder for 3 quarters and pulls away late. Nothing is settled. Carter and Sitkowski play. One of them shines just enough to get the message boards going. Rutgers 35 UMass 21
David Anderson: Even though Dave claims to not follow these things, his prediction is pretty close to what should be expected. Whether or not this game is close comes down to the Rutgers defensive line. If Umass can’t get any run game going against nickel and dime coverage, I expect Rutgers to hold them down if the Minutemen are forced to pass. On offense, if Sitkowski is not moving the chains and possibly even if he is, Rutgers will just try to pound it with Pacheco and wear down Umass’s undersized defense. Then if they are worn down, McLane Carter can probably lead a few drives to put things out of reach, leveraging Blackshear. If Rutgers jumps out to an early lead, I fully expect Umass to be able to score in the 2nd half per their system and make the game look closer. So either way this shakes out with a similar final score. Rutgers 34 UMass 23
Aaron Breitman: You don’t have to admit it, I will for you. Every Rutgers fan will either walk into SHI Stadium, turn on their HDTV or listen to Chris Carlin and Ray Lucas with some legitimate anxiety pumping through their veins when this game kicks off. While Rutgers should handle UMASS due to having more talent and depth on its roster, it’s hard to feel confident entering this game with a nation’s worst 11 game losing streak. A strong first quarter is key for the confidence of Rutgers and the blood pressure of every fan. An opportunistic defense and run it down your throat offensive philosophy are the keys to Rutgers controlling this game from the start. I don’t think it will be all smooth, but I expect a better performance than last season’s opener against Texas State, even if the score doesn’t reflect that. Rutgers 31 UMASS 10
Adam Ross: Unfortunately for me, I will be checking updates on my phone while out with my wife for the evening. I anticipate some rust and nerves in the first half, combined with an upset minded UMass squad to bring us into halftime tied up at 10. A big kickoff return to open the second half, gives the RU faithful some hope, but the offense continues to show signs of struggle well into the 3rd quarter. Thankfully, the defense shows us what an average Big Ten defense can do against a lesser opponent. The line for this game is 15 and a half, and I think that is pretty spot on. The Lewis injury will be hard to swallow throughout the season, but won’t factor too much into this one. Rutgers 31 UMass 13
Fred Gaudios: A few factors go into this game prediction. First, while we were terrible last year, we were also unlucky. Football Outsiders’ advanced metric (called FEI, a weighted efficiency metric, like a KenPom for CFB) ranked us #108 out of #130 FBS teams last season, a ranking more like a three- or a four-win than a one-win team. (Illinois, who went 3-8 last season, was a less efficient team than we were last season, ranked at #111.) Second, UMASS was even worse than we were last season, and probably won’t be much better in 2019 than they were in 2018. Third, chase the Vegas money - we started as 11-point favorites and are now 15.5 point favorites, suggesting gamblers sense a blowout in the making. All of this data puts me firmly in the “this will get out of hand quickly” camp. I’d expect an easy and relaxed fourth quarter. Rutgers 41, UMASS 7
Danny Burrick: The start of another anticipated football season is upon us. Rutgers opens with the independent FBS school UMass. Rutgers is favored to win the opener but I think it will be uglier than many of us would want, especially in the early going of the game. UMass jumps out to a quick 7-0 lead leaving everyone stunned as Rutgers gets their bearing on the game. As Rutgers slowly but surely imposes their bigger size and strength through the game, they will overtake UMass and build a lead. Rutgers errors throughout the game will keep it close but a couple big defensive plays will make the difference in the final outcome. Rutgers dominates possession and yardage and toughs out the victory. Rutgers 38 UMass 17
Cara Sanfilippo: Honestly, with all the unknowns, I am copping our here and basing my predictions on the Vegas odds. Rutgers needs to win, and they need to win big, so hopefully they can win big and beat the spread. I want them to win swimmingly, and prove that the rest of the season will not be a wash. If Ash wants to instill confidence, they should look to come out strong on the first drive, and play aggressively, with urgency, and try to spice up their offensive play. Make me excited Rutgers, please. I can’t do last season over. I no longer have my wedding to distract me, and basketball is just not my jam. Rutgers 39 UMass 17
Nick Kosko: I waited as long as possible for this pick. I was always going to pick Rutgers in this contest but with the breaking news (as of Thursday night) that McClane Carter is going to start, give me the Scarlet Knights and the points. Yes, I just gave you a spoiler for my College Football Pregame Show on 97.3 ESPN South Jersey starting at 6pm sharp. All fans can hope for is a solid performance all around for the early season optimism and definitely a turnover free performance from Carter. It would be nice to see a big lead early, with some nice play Carter and then you see an improved Art Sitkowski. As long as he’s more comfortable, fans we’ll feel good...for now. Rutgers 38 UMass 10
There you have it, some legitimate optimism. Let’s hope Rutgers justifies it with a strong performance. Let us know in the comment section what you think will happen tonight.