The Big Ten released a revised version of the football schedule for the fall back in February. Rutgers’ schedule was studied and a win-loss prediction was made. With spring practice now over, it is time to take another look. Rutgers has a better idea of how the team will look come the start of the season — which is just two months away.
Greg Schiano returns his entire coaching staff from the 2020 season. The Scarlet Knights finished 3-6 in year one of Schiano’s second stint in Piscataway. He was able to lead Rutgers to great improvement despite going through the season during a global pandemic. There was no traditional offseason and a scrambled preseason camp. After making strides despite it all, Rutgers has to feel good about the future heading into the 2021 season.
The Scarlet Knights bring back almost all of its starters from a year ago. Noah Vedral, Bo Melton, Aron Cruickshank, Isaih Pacheco, and Raiqwon O’Neal are some of the key returners on the offensive side of the ball. Olakunle Fatukasi, Tyshon Fogg, Avery Young, and Tre Avery lead the way on defense.
Rutgers may have some experience coming back at some important positions but they still play in the best conference in the nation. The Big Ten East is going to be strong once again and even if RU is better, it doesn’t guarantee more conference wins.
Now that spring ball is finished, it is time to revisit the upcoming schedule for the fall and project which games are going to be wins for Rutgers. This is going to be a topic of conversation until the season kicks off and we will take a final look near the end of August once training camp concludes. Until then, here is how the season could play out for the Scarlet Knights.
Sept. 2: vs. Temple
SHI Stadium is going to operate at 100% for the fall season. Rutgers will now take on Temple on a Thursday night. All signs point to the Scarlet Knights beginning their season with a victory. Rod Carey was hired to be the head coach of the Owls after Manny Diaz bailed and returned to Miami. Temple quickly became a transfer portal of its own. Rutgers was one of the programs to take advantage by adding three players that have a chance to start in 2021. This will be the first game in Schiano’s second stint where fans will be in the stands. Rutgers has to come out on top in this one.
Result: W, 1-0
Sept. 11: at Syracuse
Syracuse finished 1-10 last season. Dino Babers could be coaching for his job over the course of the 2021 season. This would be a game that goes against him hard if the Orange are taken down. This is the home opener for Syracuse and the offense has to be better by default. With that being said, Rutgers has to prove that they are still the better team. The schedule change in Week 1 gives them some extra time to prepare for this one. This game will not be easy but the Scarlet Knights should be able to come out on top.
Result: W, 2-0
Sept. 18: vs. Delaware
Delaware is the lone FCS opponent on Rutgers’ schedule. They had a successful season that took place in the spring, finishing 7-1 and making a run to the national semifinals. Rutgers should win the game but there are definitely easier matchups Rutgers could have scheduled for its “cupcake” game. Regardless, this is a game to sit back and enjoy as the Scarlet Knights roll.
Result: W, 3-0
Sept. 25: at Michigan
Rutgers might have a bit of confidence after taking Michigan to three overtimes in Piscataway last season. This could be an upset pick when the time comes and bettors will look to take advantage of what could be a high spread. With this game being on the road, it is hard to imagine Rutgers coming out on top. Jim Harbaugh will have to rally his team this season and show some improvements. A home loss to Rutgers would be hard to explain. The Scarlet Knights will compete but suffer their first loss of the season here.
Result: L, 3-1 (0-1, Big Ten)
Oct. 2: vs. Ohio State
No Justin Fields, game at SHI Stadium, exciting second half in last year’s game. Ohio State can brush all of this off. This has been a program that does not rebuild — they reload. Ryan Day and the Buckeyes built a 35-3 lead over Rutgers in the first half of their 2020 matchup and it could be another lopsided affair early on. Ohio State has championship aspirations once again and it will be difficult for the Scarlet Knights to keep up in this one.
Result: L, 3-2 (0-2, Big Ten)
Oct. 9: vs. Michigan State
It took seven turnovers for the Scarlet Knights to defeat Michigan State on the road to open the 2020 season. Mel Tucker should field a better team in year two as head coach of the Spartans but this is one of the more winnable games on the schedule for Rutgers. It is unlikely that Michigan State turns the ball over seven times in this one and they are improved under center with Anthony Russo. Tucker has made New Jersey a focus area when recruiting and it is imperative that Schiano and the Scarlet Knights remind them who runs the state. They get the win on Homecoming.
Result: W, 4-2 (1-2, Big Ten)
Oct. 16: at Northwestern
If this game was in Piscataway, the result could be a bit different. It is never easy to win a game in Evanston against a Pat Fitzgerald-coached team. One thing that is for sure is that the Wildcats will play defense. Offensively, they will be a bit of a question mark. Peyton Ramsey has moved on and South Carolina transfer Ryan Hilinski will take over under center. This will be a classic Big Ten slugfest in the trenches. Northwestern will win an ugly game here but the Scarlet Knights should hang around. Keep this game in the back of your memory when thinking of potential upsets.
Result: L, 4-3 (1-3, Big Ten)
Oct. 30: at Illinois
Here we are again. Another chance for Rutgers to take down an Illinois team that has been down. That is against everyone else but Rutgers. They have not had a winning season since 2011 and have not made a bowl since 2014 but Illinois has won three-straight against Rutgers. This run game gashed the Scarlet Knights in 2020 and at home, the Illini will look to do the same. Schiano will have to have his team ready and then some for this game. This could be the difference between a bowl and going home early. When looking at the upcoming schedule, Rutgers knows they need this one but still come up a bit short.
Result: L, 4-4 (1-4, Big Ten)
Nov. 6: vs. Wisconsin
This game will begin a brutal stretch of three in a row that will be difficult for Rutgers to hang around. If they fall to Illinois, the Scarlet Knights will have to steal a game they aren’t supposed to win and this could be an attractive pick on their home field. Wisconsin is not going to beat you down offensively. The Badgers will be coming off a game against Iowa, which will be a huge matchup in the Big Ten West. Wisconsin will bring its battle-of-the-trenches style to Piscataway and physically wear down Rutgers.
Result: L, 4-5 (1-5, Big Ten)
Nov. 13: at Indiana
This is a tough spot for Rutgers to take a trip to Bloomington. There is a chance that the Hoosiers will have a lot to play for down the stretch of the season as a team that could be near the top 10. Michael Penix is expected to return from a torn ACL and be under center for the start of the season. This game is in the middle of the toughest stretch of the schedule for the Scarlet Knights and it will be a challenging matchup.
Result: L, 4-6 (1-6, Big Ten)
Nov. 20: at Penn State
The Illinois loss could ultimately be the reason Rutgers does not qualify for a bowl game. Officially, the dream could end in State College. If there was a time for Rutgers to compete with Penn State, it was last year after an 0-5 start for the Nittany Lions. Even so, Rutgers scored just seven points and the talent disparity between the two sides was obvious.
Result: L, 4-7 (1-7, Big Ten)
Nov. 27: vs. Maryland
Rutgers will take on Maryland during Rivalry Week and this should become an annual tradition. After last year’s overtime victory for Rutgers, the Terrapins could be looking for revenge but the Scarlet Knights will be ready. They end their season with a home victory over Maryland, giving them two in a row over the Terrapins and some momentum heading into next season.
Result: W, 5-7 (2-7, Big Ten)
What do you think will happen next season? Let us know in the comment section.