The 2021 season is officially upon us! Rutgers hosts Temple tonight at 6:31 p.m. ET as fans can finally witness a Greg Schiano coached team in person for the first time in a decade. The Scarlet Knights are currently favored by just over two touchdowns. Our contributors got together to make our picks for the season opener.
Art Stein: On paper, this is a great opponent for Rutgers to open the season against. Temple was 1-6 last season finishing last in the AAC. The Owls struggled to average 20 points per game and their starting quarterback has transferred to Michigan State while his back-up transferred to Georgia Tech. The Owls besides a change in the QB position will also have a new set of running backs. The good news for Temple is that the offensive line is solid having lost only one starter from last year.
Temple’s defense had their issues last season, mostly an inability to get off the field on 3rd down. The Owls averaged allowing 37 points and 433 yards per game. Like the quarterback position, Temple has been victimized by transfers. Arnold Ebiketie has moved on to to Penn State and Ifeanyi Maijeh is now a Scarlet Knight. The strength of the Owl’s defense is their linebackers with all of the starters from last year returning. The secondary is a mixture of inexperience at the corners but two veterans at the safety positions.
Many of Temple’s deficiencies play into Rutgers strengths. The offense should have their way with the Owl’s defense but I’m concerned that the Scarlet Knights will be facing Temple’s new starting quarterback D’Wan Mathis who will operate the Run-Pass Option (RPO) offense, which has often given the RU defense trouble.
Overall, the skill level, home field (with fans) and coaching give the Scarlet Knights a decided advantage. Rutgers 34-13.
Lawrence Krayn: I could see this one starting out close. Both teams should be excited to be back in front of fans, especially under the lights. Temple will bring a few faithful up from Philly as well. I think Rutgers finds its rhythm and pulls away. 27-17 Knights.
Jack Bisaha: One thing I can say for certain is that it will be an electric atmosphere at SHI Stadium. This will be the first game that fans are in attendance for since November 23, 2019 and a lot has changed since then. With the buzz that Greg Schiano has created in his short time back at Rutgers and the general excitement of fans and students finally being back in the stadium, Thursday night has the makings of something special.
As for the game, I think the Scarlet Knights have a decided advantage in terms of talent all over the field. If Rutgers can come into the game locked in and ready to play, which I expect they will, they will have a raucous crowd to push them on that will make it easy to get into a rhythm, especially on offense. Quarterback Noah Vedral has weapons across the offense in the form of wide receiver Bo Melton and running back Isaih Pacheco and the defense has playmakers such as Olakunle Fatukasi and Julius Turner. While Temple will assuredly want to spoil the Scarlet Knights’ big day, I don't believe it will happen. 35-21 Knights.
Chris Banker: It’s never been easy in Piscataway, right? Look, these aren’t Matt Rhule’s Temple Owls, but they’re also not the FCS opponent that Rutgers fans are used to seeing right out of the gate in previous twelve-game seasons. There are some real athletes on this roster, and you better believe they’ll be fired up to open up their season with a chance to knock off a Power 5 team under the lights with a big crowd on hand. The Scarlet Knights have more talent, a stronger coaching staff, and should be able to feed off of the energy from the Rutgers Stadium faithful for the first time in almost two years. Rutgers wins here, but there are a few nervous moments, particularly early in the first half. Oh, and that 13.5-point spread? Tread lightly. 31-20, Rutgers.
B Vincent P – Temple should be undermanned and overwhelmed in year 2 of Schiano 2.0. The hallmark of a Schiano team is ball control, active tight ends, quick and agile defensive (linebackers and secondary), and win the turnover game. With more than 20 game-experienced returning players, this game should be controlled from beginning to end with the outcome never in question. There will be a strong dose of ground and pound with Pacheco (Expect to see his first 100 yards game of the season), active play-action passes from between 5-15 yards to Bo Melton, Pacheco, and Young coming out of the backfield, and a hand full of downfield shots to Bo Melton, Cruickshank, Shameen Jones, and maybe even Youngblood. This should be the year in which we see the return of the RU tight ends, being relevant and active on the O, with Haskins, Alaimo, and, quite possibly, Konopka making an impact. Expect an efficient day from Vedral 17-25 of 225 yards and 2 TD’s. I would not be surprised to see a kickoff or punt return brought back to the house by Youngblood, Cruickshank, or Melton. Defensive will be active and opportunistic against a team looking to stay in the game. The biggest questions will be on the O and D lines. Not that they will be overpowered, but more to see if they jell and who specifically stands out as the leaders (expect a lot of game day auditions for players). This game should have a big crowd, looking to exhaust the pent-up energy. “Win the Crowd” I am going big on the score. Rutgers 41-17.
David Anderson: I agree with almost everything written so far, basically Temple has some areas of strength including OL & LB, and should be WAY better than their 2020 record. They have two mobile quarterbacks (D’Won Mathis could be really good) which will give Rutgers problems by both running as well as extending plays that will really test RU linebackers in coverage. The Temple offensive line will be able to open some holes against the RU defensive line and if ball carriers (old nemesis from Illinois Ra’Von Bonner not on the two-deep) can get to the 3rd level, expect some early season communication breakdowns in the RU secondary, remember UMass in 2019? As the game goes on, Rutgers will have more depth, has more playmakers outside, and Sean Gleeson doesn’t coach scared so RU should be able to outscore the Owls even in a shootout. Also as the game progresses, hopefully, the Knights’ defense can tighten up and get some solid reps dealing with mobile QB that could bode well later in the year. At the very least even if everything goes wrong on offense and defense, Rutgers special teams should be able to win field position enough to get the W. I dropped each team’s tally by a touchdown with potential bad weather. Rutgers 31, Temple 21.
Patrick Mella: I don’t think enough can be said about the impact the home crowd will have on this game. Fans will get their first in-person look at this Schiano-led team, but the players will get their first taste of a home crowd in quite some time. I expect Rutgers to exploit a very shaky Temple defense with their playmakers most notably Pacheco and Melton. I think Schiano will try to set the tone by pounding the ball but look for a gadget play or a deep shot early on to grab a quick lead.
My one concern would be that Rutgers comes out so hyped up that they’re overly aggressive and end up giving up a special teams’ return for a touchdown or send a heavy blitz and get beat deep. But even if Rutgers does go down early, they just have more firepower than, more experience and with the home crowd, it’s just too much for Temple to overcome. Rutgers is currently a 14 point favorite. I think they’ll cover with a winning margin of around 17 or so. Rutgers 34, Temple 17
Dave White: I have no real idea what is going to happen, but the weather clearing has to help RU. It’s been a busy week. Rutgers 27 Temple 10.
Cara Sanfilippo: As of this morning, regular attendance tickets were sold out, so I expect this to be quite a home-field advantage. As far as I can see, the rain should be over by then so while the field itself might be wet, I don’t expect the weather to affect game conditions too much. However, as mentioned above, I do expect some mistakes and Gametime jitters to affect the team early on, and some messy penalties. That plus the excitement of playing to a crowd might put a scare into Scarlet Knight fans in the first half, but I do expect that this will get sorted out ahead of or at least post halftime. The crowd will be an advantage as the game picks up and I do believe that Rutgers has the advantage in terms of talent and coaching. Once they get into a rhythm, I expect them to win handily, though perhaps not by the 13.5 point spread predicted. That has nothing to do with anything besides after the past few years I am not used to blowouts in our favor. I hope to be proven wrong on the score but expect a season-opening win. Rutgers 34, Temple 24
Fred Gaudios: I’m not an expert on Temple football, but I’ve heard nothing from their fan base that comes close to expressing confidence in their coaching staff’s ability to game prep and execute that plan over sixty minutes. On the other hand, I trust Rutgers will be ready to play on Thursday. Athletically, while there are going to be quite a few games this season where Rutgers will have to rely on smoke and mirrors to remain competitive from a size and speed perspective, this shouldn’t be one of them. With news of a sellout crowd for Thursday (I’ll be there, section 114 represent) the stadium should be rocking. Do I like Rutgers by 15+, as Vegas would want me to bet? I do not, but I think Rutgers still wins comfortably. I also like the under, given the chance for cruddy weather into Thursday. Give me Rutgers 31, Temple 17.
Greg Patuto: Season-opener at home, Greg Schiano’s first game in front of fans, SHI Stadium currently sold out. All signs are pointing to the Scarlet Knights picking up a win in their first game of the year. The question remains — can they get it done?
Rutgers is not at a level where wins can just be penciled into the schedule. Temple finished 1-6 a season ago but this is a better team than their record showed. It is likely that Temple looks more like the 2019 version than the 2020 team that struggled from start to finish. The Owls return a strong offensive line and the linebackers should be as good as any in the AAC. With that being said, this is still one team that Rutgers should be able to outperform with talent on the roster.
Talent aside, the overall feel and energy in the stadium should carry the Scarlet Knights to victory. The spread has gone up in recent days leading up to the game so tread lightly but Rutgers should be able to begin 1-0. The defense can cause some turnovers and set the offense up in good position. The Scarlet Knights begin the 2021 campaign with a win and get some extra time to prepare for Syracuse in Week 2. Rutgers 30, Temple 17
Justin Raffone: I have a feeling the game might take a drive or two to slow down for Rutgers, with it being the first game and home opener, as well as fans back in the stands. Schiano is usually pretty good at coaching his teams to be ready to play under any circumstances, but I think one of the things that could cause a few early mishaps is the players wanting to play hard for Schiano’s second go around in front of fans. He really earned the respect of the players with the way he made an impact on the program last season and I believe these players want to do the right thing for him and the coaching staff. Sometimes when you try to be too perfect, however, is when you make some mistakes. I don’t think it’ll be anything too detrimental to the outcome and you may even hear Schiano say something in the post game like, “when we slowed down and got some of the anxiety of the new year out of the way, you could see these guys really play how we know they’re capable of.” I’m excited for the second year of this offense and could see them put up some big plays against Temple. Best case scenario is Rutgers jumps out to a big lead after the emotions get checked and can play some of their depth and younger guys in the first week. If that’s how it plays out, we should be looking at a big margin of victory and Rutgers at 1-0 to start an exciting year. Rutgers 37-10.
Aaron Breitman: This game is certainly a test and no one should expect a walk in the park. Temple has a good offensive line and talent at the skill positions. They should be able to score a decent amount in this game and as long as the RU defense doesn’t allow D’Wan Mathis to have a career night, that should be fine. The key is Rutgers overmatching the Temple defense with its size and speed. Wearing them down with the run game would be ideal and offensive coordinator Sean Gleason would likely prefer to not show too much from the playbook ahead of Syracuse in week 2. Expect a close game most of the way with the Scarlet Knights closing out the first home game of the season with a solid but unspectacular performance. Rutgers 33-23.
What do you think will happen? Let us know in the comment section.