It’s late October and believe it or not, the 2020 Big Ten football season is finally kicking off on Saturday. Rutgers begins the Greg Schiano 2.0 Era on the road at Michigan State at noon ET on BTN. You can read our game preview here.
Despite being almost two touchdown underdogs, this is a season opening game that they have a chance to win. The Spartans also begin a new era with first year head coach Mel Tucker, who didn’t take over until February. It could be a defensive battle as new offensive systems debut for the first time for each program. After holding a fourth quarter lead the last time they visited East Lansing, Rutgers will take the field with all the pressure firmly on the Spartans.
As we like to do, our contributors got together to make our predictions for Saturday’s season opener. How optimistic are we? Let’s kick things off here.
David Anderson: And we’re back. This game is more of a toss up than the spread indicates, but the Spartans still have more talent overall at least for this season. It will come down to quarterback and offensive line play, with the QBs possibly going either way, but Michigan State absolutely has a better offensive line if for no other reason than that they have more experience. First game of the season, usually one team is ready and the other is not, so this is the best chance for RU to knock off MSU, although I am not predicting the upset. Either team could come out and blow the doors off the other side, but as a Rutgers fan, I can’t trust them yet especially when Schiano has had mixed results in openers. Michigan State 20, Rutgers 18
Dave White: This is such a weird match-up. Two new coaches who have barely had any time to develop their players (officially). Schiano is someone who traditionally wasn’t the best in game coach, deciding to never vary from whatever his game plan was. He relied on strong defenses and wearing down the opposition with the run game. His offensive coordinator hire seems to show that those tenants may be changing. But Michigan State is home, and I’m not sure Rutgers is ready. Give me this game in December and I probably pick a different outcome. But on the road, with a team learning all new schemes—even with experience on defense—I don’t think the Scarlet Knights are able to pull this one out. But, I don’t expect a blowout. Michigan State 27 Rutgers 14
Fred Gaudios: First, I hope every player, coach, and staff member in the conference stays safe and healthy this season. Second, welcome to the first week of Big Ten action — what I feel is the official start of college football season! What a weird year this must be to play football, and it has to be an especially weird year to game prep each week. I’m honestly not sure what to predict for Rutgers at Michigan State this weekend. I will say I have a gambler’s hunch that a lack of traditional game prep should benefit the more disciplined team, and I feel confident in saying few in college football can handle the details like a Schiano-led coaching staff. On paper, Michigan State is likely a much better team than Rutgers this season, and with MSU nearly two touchdown favorites as of this writing, it would be a wild guess to assume Rutgers can hang with them. But I never said I was sane, and hope springs eternal, so I’m going to assume Rutgers achieves a moral victory on the way to a better season than most predicted. MSU 20, Rutgers 16
Patrick Mella: I’ve always thought that Rutgers season openers have been the most difficult game on the schedule to predict. Add in a new coach, albeit a familiar one, a global pandemic, a makeshift off-season, unclear quarterback situation and it’s probably anyone’s guess as to what fans will see this Saturday. The good news? There’s finally a reason to have some hope in Piscataway. Even the most skeptical fan would agree the program is in much better hands with Schiano at the helm, than it was a year ago. Schiano has done an outstanding job in the transfer portal bringing in guys that the hope is, can compete immediately and make an impact. My reason for skepticism lies in just how bad, and I mean historically bad this team was a year ago. Show me a functional offense, a quarterback who can pose some sort of threat with his arm or legs, and a defensive unit that competes hard over four quarters and I’ll be a happy man. Coach Schiano will have this team competing but I have to see some progress on the field before I start picking upsets. Michigan State 27, Rutgers 13
Cara Sanfilippo: We know I am the eternal Scarlet Knights optimist, which you have to be as someone who attends the games each week (well, historically). However, last year really blew the wheels off, and not in a good way. While I was lucky enough to be at Rutgers during the original Schiano era (1.0 as you will), I am extra excited about him returning home. I think that alone should instill some hope not only in the fan, but in the players and I expect there to be a boost in energy which should make the game closer than perhaps predicted (Currently MSU is favored to win by 11 points). However, there is good reason for the odds to be in their favor given the disparity in talent, the home field advantage, etc. Side note, how much will home field advantage be a factor without fans? But I digress. I hope Rutgers comes out strong, does not let an insurmountable lead build in the first half a la the Ash Era, and shows the building blocks of what will hopefully be a brighter future. I just don’t think that amounts to a win in the first game even with a new coach at MSU giving somewhat of the same uncertainty. I think Rutgers wants to win and will fight it out to the end. Michigan State 27, Rutgers 20
Danny Burrick: Finally Big Ten football is back! There is still so much uncertainty with both the Rutgers and Michigan St. teams having two first year head coaches. While I am not old enough to fully remember Coach Schiano’s first stint at Rutgers, one thing stuck with me. 1-10. Coach Schiano took over the program after a 1-10 record the previous year. Year after year he continually built up the roster and the records shortly showed that that was true. I believe that this time around is different. These players are going to be coming out with a fire lit under them and yes I may be crazy but I think Rutgers will win. (Also with a special teams touchdown.) Rutgers 27, Michigan State 24
Aaron Breitman: I expect both offenses to take some time to figure things out and if I’m confident of anything in this game, it’s taking the under. Rutgers held a lead in the fourth quarter in its last trip to East Lansing with one of its worst teams in recent memory. I think this team has a lot to play for with nothing to lose in this opener. That being said, the Spartans have more talent and depth so I give them the edge to pull out a hard fought, tight season opener for both teams. Michigan State 16, Rutgers 13
Greg Patuto: Who has the most pressure in this game? We can all agree confidently that it is not Rutgers. A season-opening game on the road against Michigan State? No one expects them to win this one. That is exactly why they could, or at least, it’s why they can cover the number. Neither offense in this game will jump out at you. Michigan State is going through a huge overhaul in the program and Rutgers was dead last in points per game last season in the conference. On paper, Michigan State is the better team in terms of talent so they will be able to pull this one out. On a cold and cloudy afternoon in East Lansing, do not expect a ton of points. Michigan State 24, Rutgers 13
Lance Glinn: It has been a crazy offseason filled with ups and downs, twists and turns. But Greg Schiano is back and the rebuild of Rutgers Football, on the field at least, begins against Michigan State. Two programs with new head coaches. Two programs that have yet to name a starting quarterback. Two programs that are unfortunately, in Rutgers case at least, towards the bottom of the conference.
But I think what is being ignored, or at least not talked about enough, is the talent upgrade Greg Schiano was able to make to this roster since he took over. A rebuilt defensive line, a former Rose Bowl defensive MVP added to the secondary, and most importantly, a Quarterback who fits Sean Gleeson’s system and who has won Big Ten games before in Noah Vedral. I think he will be the x-factor this saturday and will lead Rutgers to a victory in Coach’s return. Do I have 100% confidence in my pick? No. But Greg Schiano has beaten Sparty before while coaching RU, and I believe he will do it again. Give me Rutgers 24 Michigan State 21.
Let us know your predictions in the comment section!