Week three is upon us and Rutgers looks to move to 3-0 for the first time since 2012 with a win over Delaware. The Blue Hens are also 2-0 and ranked No. 6 nationally at the FCS level. While the Scarlet Knights hold many advantages as a Big Ten program, the only thing that matters is what happens between the lines on Saturday. Our staff got together to make predictions for the first meeting between formal rivals since 1973. Let’s kick things off here.
Fred Gaudios: This week, Rutgers fans will be magically whisked away to... Delaware. Hi, I’m in Delaware. (The game will of course be played in Piscataway, but I couldn’t resist the “Wayne’s World” reference opportunity.) This game terrifies me. Now, in general, I believe the Schiano-led Rutgers teams tend to lose to weaker teams thing is over-baked; it ignores the possibility for him to grow as a coach and learn from long-ago mistakes. The problem is, Delaware is a really good FCS team (ranked sixth in the conference), they’ve demonstrated giving good FBS teams a difficult time in the recent past, and they could beat Rutgers on the merits of their play if things break a certain way. I haven’t scouted them a ton, but for instance: couldn’t you see a team like Delaware having players at skill positions on offense who, while undersized, are otherwise talented enough to play Power Five football, and further, couldn’t you see those types of players giving Rutgers fits on defense? I certainly could. Anyway, this post is about a prediction, and without much else to go on, I predict Rutgers fans walk out of SHI Stadium with the team at 3-0—but not without a few, let’s say, butt-clenching moments beforehand. Rutgers 28, Delaware 21.
Art Stein: Delaware is one of the better FCS teams and is capable of giving the Scarlet Knights fits. Led by fifth-year senior Nolan Henderson, running back Dejoun Lee, and a strong receiver group, the RU defense will have to bring their A-game. The Blue Hens defense is strong, particularly the defensive backfield with two Colonial Athletic Association All-Americans manning the back end. The issues for Delaware are inconsistency along the offensive line and simply not matching up with Rutgers in terms of speed, strength, and depth. As is the case in so many FCS versus FBS games, if Rutgers doesn’t shoot themselves in the foot, they should be able to wear Delaware down into the 3rd and 4th quarters. Greg Schiano will have the Scarlet Knights ready. Rutgers 38, Delaware 24.
Sean McGrath: Delaware is a top 10 FCS team, one that should not be taken likely. One of the great things about Schiano 2.0 is that he seems to have really transformed himself into an even better coach by learning from previous mistakes. Villanova 2002 and New Hampshire 2004 were eye-opening losses that I am sure still haunt him to this day. There is no doubt in my mind that Schiano will have the team fully prepped and motivated for this game.
After a rough two games to start the season, I think this is the much-needed breakout game for the offense. The struggling offensive line should be able to use its size to overpower the much smaller Delaware defensive line. Look for Noah Vedral to have a lot more time in the pocket compared to the Syracuse game. This will allow him to go through his progressions and explore the vertical passing game that has been severely lacking. Both teams are smart and disciplined. They each have only committed 5 penalties in 2 games. (4th in FCS and 2nd in FBS) It is crucial for both teams to keep this trend going. I think this game is close for a quarter and a half but then the Rutgers offense finally breaks through with a long scoring drive. Vedral has a career day and the defense and special teams continue to dominate. Rutgers 41, Delaware 13.
Chris Banker: Greg Schiano’s experience with Rutgers’ previous FCS disasters is well-documented, and it will serve a purpose this weekend against Delaware. It is, of course, worth noting that Delaware is not your average subdivision opponent. They were among the four best teams in the country a year ago, and are off to a fast start again this fall. The narrative all week has been about this being a trap game for the Scarlet Knights, but I pump the breaks on that theory given the program’s history in these games. Schiano is not going to allow his team to take the Blue Hens lightly. The players, for their part, seem hungry and determined to continue the upward trajectory that a loss on Saturday would surely throw a wrench into. The offense, which sputtered badly against Syracuse a week ago, probably isn’t as bad as it has shown. Look for Kyle Monangai early and often in this one, and for Rutgers to do enough to put a dangerous Delaware team away late in the contest. Rutgers 38, Delaware 17.
David Anderson: Several of my family members are Delaware alums and more are current students, so it’s nice to have this game on the schedule once every 50 years. The Florida State - Jacksonville State comparison is fair, a lesser Power Five program against a top 8 FCS team. For FSU to lose that game literally everything needed to go wrong, and it did. Delaware beat JSU, but Rutgers has better coaching than FSU. So yes, Rutgers could lose this game, but if RU could push around Purdue last year, this offensive line (even with last week’s struggles) is light years ahead of the teams that struggled with FCS opponents during Schiano 1.0. I do think Delaware’s defense will contain the RU passing game if we see what we saw last week, but in a tight game, RU will just wear them out with down blocking, outweighing the Hens’ front by 50 pounds per man and Delaware has struggled at times to tackle bigger ball carriers. Delaware’s special teams will be overmatched against Big Ten athletes which is why I see Rutgers getting short fields and with a little more room for error. The Blue Hens should be able to move the ball in the air because they have some good players and above-average athletes for FCS, but the Rutgers defense is playing with incredible passion that should completely shut down their run game to make it a one-dimensional offense. Quarterback Nolan Henderson (that name has a nice ring to it) is a great leader, plays fast, is decisive, and has good ball placement, but at times has run for his life which should be the story in this game. Rutgers 30, Delaware 19.
Dave White: Someone is going to come up and punch a relatively thin Rutgers squad in the mouth at some point this season. With 14 New Jersey players on the team and a top FCS program, I expect Delaware to be the team to do so. Now, hold up commenters. Hold up, hold up, hold up. I can see you know with your “Dave White doesn’t know football,” “Dave White hates football,” and “Stick to basketball” nonsense. I didn’t say Delaware was going to win, I said they were going to punch Rutgers in the mouth. With a 2-0 start and a big game against Michigan on the horizon, I can see the Scarlet Knights coming out a little flat and going down 7-0 or 10-0, but I’m not sure it gets worse than that. Rutgers rights the ship, Gavin Wimsatt gets in the game, the crowd cheers (“Yay!” they say in their crowd-like voice) and Rutgers gets on a roll. I don’t think this is a romp, but I think the fourth quarter is relatively stress-free. Not to milk this paragraph anymore, but I can’t see any udder outcome: Rutgers 31, Delaware 17.
Cara Sanfilippo: I was actually discussing this game last night, and the consensus was, “Can you believe Rutgers might go 3-0 to start the season. We would be halfway to a bowl game with that record!” To which I stated no, I can’t and the Scarlet Knights better not be thinking this game is a cakewalk. Delaware might be the best team they have played this season, and they will need to be prepared and not just looking ahead to the start of Big Ten play next week to win. I think that they will be prepared and hopefully, this is the game where Noah Vedral is able to gain some confidence and start connecting with his receivers downfield. Because if he doesn’t, I won’t feel confident predicting wins moving forward. The idea that Gavin Wimsatt might come in to relieve Vedral to me at least is not realistic but at least the idea of it might light a fire under Vedral’s butt to not lose his starting spot. Hopefully, this is the week the offense starts to gel as a unit and we are a better, more battle-ready team moving forward. I think Rutgers will pull out the victory, but I think it will be closer than we think. Rutgers 38, Delaware 21.
B Vincent P – This game on the surface looks like a trap game. I don’t see it. RU will run the table on the out of conference games. Schiano and company will be ready and will open the playbook to take some shots down field. The Delaware game will be the last tune up for the Big Ten’s nine game gauntlet, RU wont waste this opportunity. We should see Gleeson calling a game designed to create opportunities for Noah Vedral to find Bo Milton, Shameen Jones, and Cruickshank 20 yards plus yards down field. Also expect to see the continued renaissance of the RU tight ends. The running game should get going with Pacheco, Young and now Monangai finding yards (I expect Pacheco to get his first 100 yard game of the year). Defense will continue to be dominate. Rutgers 48, Delaware 14.
Andrew Cangiano: This game has me a little nervous. Delaware is not your average FCS opponent. The Colonial Athletic Association bumped the 2020 season up to this, and the Blue Hens responded by going undefeated in the regular season and winning two playoff games before falling in the semifinals against South Dakota State. Plus, we have already seen eight FCS teams upset FBS opponents already this season
To win this game the Scarlet Knights need to continue to play clean football (no turnovers and few penalties). They also need to finally establish the run with Isaiah Pacheco and this is a good game to do it. The defense should continue to play at a high level. Coach Schiano will have this team prepared. Rutgers 28, Delaware 14.
Patrick Mella: I just don’t believe Delaware has what it takes to compete with Rutgers over four quarters. I get that FCS teams come into games like this playing loose with nothing to lose. But even with a sloppy outing from Rutgers they should seal this one up comfortably. However if they do struggle, that can actually serve as a good reminder that no game is an automatic gimme. My hopes, besides the win of course, would be to get Pacheco going and overall just coming out of this game healthy. Pacheco just hasn’t looked quite right through two games. But a big outing on Saturday could change his trajectory for the rest of the season.
I think at halftime it’ll be a tighter game than most people would have thought but Rutgers pours it on in the third in route to a comfortable win. Rutgers 34, Delaware 10.
Justin Raffone: Rutgers has thus far outscored opponents 52-14 in the second half after relatively slow starts through two games. That tells me the talent level on this team is on the rise and the coaching is able to make tweaks as the game goes along and at halftime in order to put other teams away. It’s been mentioned over and over this week and in most predictions that Delaware can’t be taken lightly and I don’t think Schiano and company let that happen. Vedral looked better for the most part against Syracuse despite shakier o-line play, but they should hold up better against Delaware. I’m hoping this one gets to a point where we can see a backup QB, I don’t care which one, because it probably won’t be pretty if one needs to be thrown into the fire and sees their first action in a Big Ten game. The defense has been key to start the season and I think it comes out making plays in the first half again and everyone worried too much about Delaware, which is better than not worrying enough. Rutgers 37, Delaware 13.
Greg Patuto: Greg Schiano knows a thing or two about being tripped up by an FCS school. There is no doubt he remembers the matchups between Villanova and New Hampshire during his first tenure. Schiano has been preaching that his team will prepare the same way for this game and if they do, there should be no problem.
Delaware might put up a fight but Rutgers will look to jump on top early in this one. If they can get up by a couple scores, the Scarlet Knights need to work on some things on the offensive side of the ball. Isaih Pacheco needs to get going and Noah Vedral needs to push the ball down the field. The Blue Hens can move the ball but this is a Big Ten opponent and the talent level is different. The Scarlet Knights cannot mess around in this one on their way to 3-0. Rutgers 38, Delaware 17.
Aaron Breitman: Delaware has a veteran defense that was top five in FCS play in multiple categories last season. However, their defensive line is undersized and I expect Rutgers to wear them down with the ground game in the second half. If the Scarlet Knights come out focused, there is no reason they can’t establish a multiple score lead at some point in the first half. The biggest key of the game I think is eliminating hope on the Delaware sideline as soon as possible. Aside from the score, a big hit early or perhaps a blocked punt, which is very possible as the Blue Hens have had four blocked in its last nine games, would send a wave up doubt up and down their roster. They’ll come to Piscataway with confidence after holding a lead in the fourth quarter at Pitt in 2019, which was a bowl team, with much of the same team. The size and speed advantage of Rutgers will be the difference in the outcome, how long it takes for them to exert their will on the Blue Hens will determine how close it will be. I don’t expect Delaware to lay down and won’t be a pushover, but Rutgers does enough to 3-0 in front of the home faithful. Rutgers 35 Delaware 24.
Are we too optimistic or too cautious? Let us know your thoughts and predictions for this game in the comment section.