Let’s begin with this — Rutgers Athletics belong in the Big Ten.
The Scarlet Knights made the move to the Big Ten in 2014 and teams have continued to improve. Women’s Soccer and Field Hockey are playing at a national level. Men’s Basketball is coming off two consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, which would have been three if the pandemic did not cancel the 2020 tournament. And yes, even football has taken steps forward.
We all knew that it was going to take longer to build a winner on the gridiron. There are many different parts of a football team that need to be solidified before it can be turned around completely. In certain areas, Rutgers has improved each year.
With that being said, it is time to prove it.
Rutgers is coming off yet another lopsided loss at the hands of Ohio State on Saturday. This has caused some negative feelings about the standing of Rutgers in the conference. Let’s backtrack a bit.
The Scarlet Knights were one of the worst programs in the nation under Chris Ash, who was fired in 2019 after going 8-32 overall and 3-26 in the Big Ten in three plus years. The program was in the bottom half of the nation recruiting wise and there was no upside coming. When Greg Schiano was hired for his second stint in Piscataway, there was ways to go for the program as a whole.
In two plus years to this point since Schiano returned, Rutgers is 11-16 overall and 5-15 in Big Ten play. The talent in New Jersey is beginning to stay home at a higher rate and it is because of the level of credibility Schiano brings to the program. He showed it again during a blowout loss in Columbus over the weekend.
Ohio State faked a punt with a 49-10 lead in the fourth quarter, leading to a late hit by Aron Cruickshank and Schiano getting in the face of Ohio State head coach Ryan Day. Schiano showed that he will back his players and light a fire when needed. At the same time, the product on the field needs to end these situations.
On the particular play, Jesse Mirco saw Rutgers loaded up on one side and took the chance to gain some yardage. This was a product of game flow rather than a call from the sidelines. Now, Rutgers is well within its rights to take offense but at the same time, make a stop and this never happens. If Rutgers is attempting to block a punt down 39 points, the Buckeyes can adjust themselves. In this case, one side is just much better than the other.
That is not a knock on the Scarlet Knights. We saw what Ohio State did to Wisconsin in Week 4 and it will have a chance to play another one-sided game against Michigan State. On the Buckeyes’ schedule, there is one game that could be competitive — maybe two if you believe in Penn State.
To take this game and say Rutgers does not belong in the conference is an overreaction. Now, the team will have two chances to show that they do belong here and have to prove it on the field.
The Scarlet Knights are preparing to host Nebraska on Friday night. SHI Stadium should be packed as Rutgers will have another winnable matchup at home. The Cornhuskers are coming off a victory against Indiana. This snapped a miserable stretch that included Scott Frost being fired. This particular game comes before the bye week.
Rutgers will come out of the bye with another home matchup against Indiana, a team that the Scarlet Knights defeated 38-3 in 2021. With three wins under its belt, Rutgers has a chance to take big strides towards a bowl berth this season.
Not only will these two games help this season, they will go a long way in showing that Rutgers Football belongs in the Big Ten.