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Athlon Sports predictions for Rutgers football

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The Scarlet Knights were improved a year ago but can they continue trending up this season?

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

There will be plenty of college football previews coming out from now until the first week of the season. As we creep toward the Fourth of July, previews are going to be coming out hot and heavy.

Rutgers showed great improvement during the 2020 season. They finished 3-6 after playing nine Big Ten games in nine weeks. After a strange, COVID filled season, the Scarlet Knights still have more to prove.

Athlon Sports released their annual projections at the beginning of the month and have Rutgers ranked 76th out of 130 teams in the FBS. They project the Scarlet Knights to finish with an overall record of 4-8 and 2-7 in the Big Ten, placing them sixth in the East Division.

When looking at the schedule, Athlon has the Scarlet Knights picking up conference victories over Michigan State and Illinois along with non-conference victories over Temple and Delaware. With non-conference games back in the schedule, Rutgers has a chance to get to six wins and its first bowl bid since 2014.

The publication also made predictions for the All-Conference teams. Aron Cruickshank and Olakunle Fatukasi were selected as members of the first team while Adam Korsak was named second team. Bo Melton and Mike Tverdov were also mentioned as third team selections.

It is no surprise that the offensive line was listed as a concern after allowing 21 sacks last season. Noah Vedral has to remain upright and avoid big hits in hopes of staying healthy. For what it is worth, Athlon named Raiqwon O’Neal as a breakout player in the Scarlet Knight offense. On the other side of the ball, Fatukasi is a strength but Rutgers must limit big plays and get stops in the red zone.

Rutgers opens the season on Sept. 2 against Temple in Piscataway. This marks the first of three-straight winnable non-conference games for the Scarlet Knights. If they are able to start out the season 3-0, they will need three conference victories to earn a bowl bid. These three wins could potentially come against teams like Michigan State, Illinois, and Maryland.

Greg Schiano returns his entire coaching staff and 20 starters from last year’s team. This is tied for the most returning experience in the Big Ten. The road is there for Rutgers to take another step this season and now it is all about what they can do on the field come the fall.