The 2020 season is in the books and we are officially onto 2021.
Greg Schiano led the Scarlet Knights to a 3-6 record in his first season back. This campaign gave fans some exciting moments and some hope for the future. Knowing this, Schiano wasted no time preparing for the upcoming season.
“We have a schedule but we’re ready to adjust it,” Schiano said during a news conference following the 2020 season. “First, God willing that we can have spring practice, but I don’t think we have to do anything (different) because it’s like a little more than bowl prep as you go through bowl prep, your bowl game, and then you go through spring practice. I’ve already put together a calendar that we’re set to go on as long as we are allowed to do that.”
The 2020 season saw Rutgers play nine Big Ten games over the span of nine weeks. The grueling task of playing a team in one of the most physical conferences in the country took a toll on the Scarlet Knights. In 2021, that will not be the case.
“Right now, scheduling is something I need to get with, with Pat (Hobbs) and Kevin McConnell and work through everything. I’m not sure what’s going to happen, so we will wait for the Big Ten first and then we will deal with that,” Schiano said.
Well, the Big Ten has spoken. On Friday, the conference released a revised football schedule for the 2021 season.
Scheduling is college football is extremely important. When and where you play a certain team is pivotal in determining how the season is going to go. For Rutgers, the opponents and matchups have not changed for the upcoming season. Despite that, the entire dynamic of the schedule is a bit different.
The Scarlet Knights are looking to take another step forward this season in the Big Ten. Here is a breakdown of the schedule as we make some way-too-early predictions on the season.
Sept. 4: vs. Temple
A Week 1 game at SHI Stadium with potentially having fans back in the stands should have the Scarlet Knights salivating already. It makes it better that it is against the Owls. The days of winning 10 games with Matt Rhule are well in the rearview. Temple finished 1-6 in 2020 and seem to be trending down. Rod Carey has his work cut out for him moving forward, especially after losing some key players. This includes Ifeanyi Maijeh and David Nwaogwugwu, who will be in Piscataway this season. Off pure adrenaline alone, Rutgers has to pull this one out to get a season-opening victory for the second-straight season.
Result: W, 1-0
Sept. 11: at Syracuse
Like the Owls, Syracuse is a team that is not trending in the right direction. Doesn’t it seem like a decade ago when Dino Babers led the Orange to 10 wins, including a Camping World Bowl victory? Well, that was only a couple years back in 2018. Syracuse has gone 6-17 over the last two seasons and 1-10 in 2020. Babers’ seat could catch on fire early on in 2021 if they get off to a rocky start and the Scarlet Knights have a chance to contribute to this. Home or away, the Scarlet Knights figure to be the better team once again this season.
Result: W, 2-0
Sept. 18: vs. Delaware
Delaware will be a busy team moving forward. Beginning in March, the Blue Hens will play seven spring games and two games in the fall before coming to Piscataway for this matchup with Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights won three games in 2020 and did not have the luxury of some non-conference matchups. This game is one that they missed out on. Not in 2021.
Result: W, 3-0
Sept. 25: at Michigan
Rutgers was right there. Michigan was in the midst of a down year and it took three overtimes to take down the Scarlet Knights. If Rutgers was going to beat Jim Harbaugh, that was the game. Unfortunately, it is hard to imagine the Wolverines needing that much extra time in this one. The discrepancy in talent is still large and Michigan will have to have a better year in 2021 just by default.
Result: L, 3-1 (0-1 Big Ten)
Oct. 2: vs. Ohio State
No Justin Fields, no problem for the Buckeyes. While Fields is preparing to be one of the top picks in the NFL Draft, Ohio State is replenishing. Names like Jack Miller III, C.J. Stroud, and Kyle McCord have the program set for a long time — not to mention Quinn Ewers, the No. 1 overall prospect in the Class of 2022 according to ESPN. Rutgers was given no favors early in the Big Ten portion of their schedule.
Result: L, 3-2 (0-2 Big Ten)
Oct. 9: vs. Michigan State
This may be the game of the season for the Scarlet Knights if they want to get to a bowl game. Rutgers shocked the nation in the 2020 opener when they forced seven Spartan turnovers on their way to a victory. Is Michigan State that much better this season? Anthony Russo, former Rutgers commit, will have he offense in a better position but this is still a winnable game. In the end, give me Schiano over Mel Tucker in the coaching battle leading the Scarlet Knights to a win at home.
Result: W, 4-2 (1-2 Big Ten)
Oct. 16: at Northwestern
Pat Fitzgerald signed a 10-year contract during the offseason that will keep him at Northwestern through 2030. Fitzgerald has built one of the best teams in the Big Ten. The Wildcats may not score 60 points to beat Rutgers like the Buckeyes, but this will be a long day in Evanston for the Scarlet Knights. Discipline and defense will lead Northwestern in this one. Expect Rutgers to struggle offensively from the opening kick.
Result: L, 4-3 (1-3 Big Ten)
Oct. 30: at Illinois
Remember how Michigan State might have been the game of the season? Well this is a close second, for a couple reasons. Rutgers is looking for revenge in this game, which will be the last annual crossover with Illinois. The Scarlet Knights entered their 2020 game with the Illini as favorites but fell on a last-second field goal. On paper, the Scarlet Knights have the superior team and can win this game if they do not beat themselves like they did in 2020.
Result: W, 5-3 (2-3 Big Ten)
Nov. 6: vs. Wisconsin
Is Wisconsin a good matchup for Rutgers? They are a team that likes to play slow and use their rushing attack to shorten the game. The Badgers are not known for their explosive style but their ability to dominate in the trenches and play defense. This may allow Rutgers to hang around in the first half but they will get worn down over the course of 60 minutes. Ultimately, this does not seem like the best matchup for the Scarlet Knights.
Result: L, 5-4 (2-4 Big Ten)
Nov. 13: at Indiana
Indiana is coming off an 85 campaign in 2020 that ended in a one-point loss to Tennessee in the Gator Bowl. Both Michael Penix Jr. and Ty Fryfogle will be back in Bloomington in 2021 which will have Indiana near the top-10 in the rankings. In the end, the Scarlet Knights will not have the firepower to keep up in this one.
Result: L, 5-5 (2-5 Big Ten)
Nov. 20: at Penn State
An 0-5 start for Penn State meant nothing in their 2020 matchup against Rutgers. They rode the momentum of a victory against Michigan right into Piscataway and dominated. The Nittany Lions might not enter the 2021 season as perennial National Championship contenders but they should still find themselves in the top-25. The talent gap is large between these two programs and it showed a season ago.
Result: L, 5-6 (2-6 Big Ten)
Nov. 27: vs. Maryland
This game will be the different between a bowl game and setting sights on 2022. Rutgers and Maryland should be playing at the end of every season. This is quickly turning into an intriguing rivalry matchup and the Scarlet Knights can make it two in a row. A victory here could give Rutgers three conference wins for the second-straight season and earn them a berth into a bowl game. Michigan State, Illinois, Maryland — these three games will be the key to potentially participating in a bowl game. They are all winnable contests for the Scarlet Knights.
Result: W, 6-6 (3-6 Big Ten)