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Examining the path to a bowl game for Rutgers football

The Scarlet Knights need two wins in their final four games to make the postseason.

Ohio State v Rutgers Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Here we go RU faithful! We are down to the final 4 games! Truly, this is not quite how I envisioned the season with wins and losses playing out. RU being 4-4 means they are very much alive in seeking their first bowl appearance since 2014. That was when the Kyle Flood era team beat North Carolina in the Quick Lane Bowl 40-21.

Let’s recap my predictions for the 2021 season in a flash back moment before moving forward.

“This is going to be an interesting year. The out of conference games are critical to my prediction and require Rutgers taking care of business and winning all three games. I don’t see Temple putting up much of a fight and though Syracuse is down, this is an early trap game for RU (they must take care of business in the DOME). I have heard many folks say Delaware is the game to be concerned about, however, this is a Schiano 2.0 team, and I don’t see it. I had MSU, Maryland, and Illinois, as wins for Rutgers this year, but after watching Art Sitkowski beat Nebraska (a team RU has never beaten), I am little less confident. With that said, I am sticking to RU pulling off those wins. Now here is where it gets interesting, can this RU team find a way to win a game on the road at UM, PSU, Indiana, or NW on the road? I am going all in and saying RU will win one of those games. I won’t say which one yet, but I will the week of the game. This is the year RU goes bowling, once again. I am going all in on Rutgers going 7-5 (8-5 after winning their bowl game). You have all year to call me out on my prediction accuracy or ask me what lottery numbers you should be playing. ”

For the most part, I was not that far off so far considering RU won their out of conference games and beat Illinois. At the beginning of the season Northwestern was considered a solid team and I thought that game was winnable, but not a guarantee. The game that set me back was the MSU game where RU lost. Who really knew they would be undefeated and in the first College Football Playoff poll with Georgia, Alabama and Oregon? Here we stand with 4 RU games to go, frankly we are still in it for a bowl game and maybe even 7 wins.

Looking forward at the final four games for Rutgers:

11/6 Wisconsin (5-3; 3-2) vs RU: Wisconsin is playing it best football of the season with the #1 defense in the country. Braelon Allen, 240 lbs. 17-year-old freshmen RB for Badgers, has been an absolute bulldozer rushing for over 100+ yards in the past 4 games. The run game helps UW melt the game clock and add to their blue collar 34:53 mins per game average time of possession. RU has done an impressive job this season in containing the run, except for MSU’s Kenneth Walker’s 223 yard, 8 yards per carry performance.

The real question for this game is can RU move the ball enough to get first downs, eat some clock, and put up 20+ points? Without much of a passing game to spread the field, this game looks to be a win for Wisconsin. I will be at the game and hoping Schiano and Gleeson have come up with a game plan to get the ball down field. A banged-up Noah Vedral, without a strong backup option with game day experience, will put way too much pressure on the defense to keep the scoring below 14 points. This does not bold well for the Scarlet and White. If you are a inclined to be a gambler and an RU fan, keep you money in your pocket and just cheer for a storming the field moment.

11/13 RU at Indiana (2-6; 0-5): Beginning of this season, this was an inevitable loss at Indiana with Michael Penix Jr., the Hoosiers quarterback, who torched RU for 233 yards and 3 touchdowns on the road last season. Rutgers could not contain Penix Jr. and were never really in the game. Enter 2021, IU has gone through more than 3 QB’s since Penix Jr. has been injured. Even with a standout 5-star USC transfer RB Stephan Carr, averaging almost 4 yards per carry without a QB thread, has left IU in a very vulnerable position. This game is probably the most winnable of the remaining games for RU.

11/20 RU at PSU (5-3; 2-3): Talk about a team that was in the driver’s seat and making noise after beating Auburn , who is ranked #12 in the latest poll. After that big win, in early September, PSU went on a 5-game winning streak, was ranked as high as #7, and then hit a wall. First, losing a heartbreaker to Iowa, when their QB Clifford was injured on the road. They led 17-3, only to lose in OT. Then they lost to Illinois, in Happy Valley in 9 OT’s, an NCAA record.

The notion that the Nittany Lions were looking past Illinois goes out the window considering they lost 20-18 in OT and had 9 chances to win at home (that is like playing a doubleheader in football). The Illini did not dominate that game on offense, as they continued to struggled at the QB position. That same Illini team lost the following week to RU at home. Fast forward to last weekend’s game, one I attended in Ohio at the Shoe. PSU gave The Ohio State University all it could handle and actually played well enough to win. A complete Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde transformation. Many have expressed the notion that possibly the same PSU team that played Illinois will be the team that Rutgers will play in Happy Valley. Hard to say that will be the case. Expect James Franklin to have his team ready for this game.

11/27 Maryland (2-3, 5-3) at RU: Maryland on paper has had quite a bit of talent and several recent strong recruiting class years, under its belt. Tua has been electric at quarterback, even though at times its come against lesser talented teams (except for West Virginia). Against better competition, the Terps have struggled and, in many cases, have been significantly outscored . They still must play PSU, MSU, and UM. Hard to read this game as Maryland beat Illinois, while losing to OSU, the only common opponents. This is a winnable game but will come down to a dog fight in the end and a matter of who wants it more.

The question moving forward is whether Rutgers can build on the victory over Illinois or do they flame out over the next 4 games? I am going with RU wins against Indiana and Maryland, with the hope of pulling off an upset of Badgers, which is a tall order. Not touching or even dreaming of a PSU win in Happy Valley, but I would take it!

I am standing by my 7-5 season win prediction; however, it is with huge risk since that requires 3 wins in the final 4 games. Sanity says take the under and RU having a strong shot of going bowling with a shot at a 6-6 record. Either way, hope is still alive in the last month of the season!

Bring on the Dogs and share your thoughts…….See you in the Blue Lot!