Editor’s Note: Quotes for this article are from head coach Greg Schiano’s press conference on Monday. To read his statement on the suspensions of Max Melton and Chris Long, click here.
The schedule-makers did not do Rutgers any favors this season. The Scarlet Knights will begin Big Ten play with a trip to the Big House in Ann Arbor against No. 19 Michigan.
The Wolverines have not been tested to this point but they are outscoring opponents 141-34 in three games and averaging 350.3 rushing yards per contest. This will be the primetime matchup at 3:30 P.M. on ABC — talk about an incredible opportunity for the Scarlet Knights.
“You know how I’ve felt that Rutgers belonged in the Big Ten for a long time,” Greg Schiano said during Monday’s press conference. “It’s weekends like this that made me want to be in this league. We’re excited about the opportunity and we’re going to see how we stack up.”
Michigan looks far and away better than they did in 2020 when they came to Piscataway. It was a triple-overtime victory for the Wolverines and this gave Rutgers some confidence that they could compete. Despite a 3-6 record and vast improvements, Rutgers still has more to do.
“Let’s make it clear, we haven't turned anything around,” Schiano said. “We’ve had a good start to our non-conference schedule. This right here is what I’ve talked about — Rutgers in the Big Ten. Now we start playing a Big Ten schedule. We have to go and show that we belong and we haven't done that yet. We've won a couple games but a I’ve said before, I don't feel like 2020 was real. I don't feel like you got the whole picture.”
Michigan is led by Blake Corum, who has totaled 407 yards and seven touchdowns on the year. Corum is averaging 8.7 yards per carry while Hassan Haskins has also been a factor with 5.7 yards per attempt. The Wolverines use both running backs over the course of a game and that is something for Rutgers to prepare for.
Cade McNamara is not making the big mistake and that is what Michigan asks him to do. Corum and Haskins have been carrying the offense to this point. Rutgers has allowed 100 yards on the ground in two of the three games this season, including 159 on Saturday against Delaware.
“It’s not just Blake, it’s all of them,” Schiano said. “They have a really good running back room. You can see it and I think the guy who coaches them, Coach Hart, I’ve followed him and tracked him from when he was a player.”
“I think he’s an excellent coach. That group is doing a really good job. They certainly have the players but it’s more than that.”
Rutgers has been playing sound football this season. The Scarlet Knights took care of business in the non-conference portion of the season without turning the ball over and committing just seven penalties in three games.
As we all know, it gets different in Big Ten play — especially in front of 100,000 fans in Michigan Stadium. The Scarlet Knights have the ability to operate with crowd noise but once you are there, it is all different.
“We have the ability to do it,” Schiano said. “We did it for Syracuse and we did it in the year’s past. We have systems that we’ve invested money in the provide, you can’t hear yourself talk from here to there.”
“The real issue playing on the road is that you can’t let the momentum, you can’t judge what s going on with the momentum. You just have chop your job. Once you start letting all that other stuff become part of the equation, now you’re playing right into the mess.”
Rutgers-Michigan will be on display on Saturday afternoon and the Scarlet Knights have a golden opportunity right out of the gate to make an impact.
“We’re preparing to go and play a really good football team that’s got it going,” Schiano said. “Everything Ive looked at, the film I've looked at, the media I've listened to. There’s a good vibe out there right now. They're playing really good football, they're playing winning football. They're holding onto the ball. They're running the ball. When you do that, you have a chance to win every game.”