Schedule breakdown No. 2.
We are now about six weeks closer to the season-opener than we were during the first “way-too-early” version of the schedule prediction. This is version two of four with the first coming back on May 9.
Yes, there will be games that Rutgers plays that it will be huge underdogs. There is a handful of games in the loss column already but there are also many swing games. There will be plenty of chances to talk yourself into a win from now until the opener against Northwestern.
Is there a path to six wins for Rutgers? Let’s see:
Sept. 3: vs. Northwestern
This is such a big game to open the season. Who would have thought we’d be saying that about Northwestern-Rutgers? This is a game that if lost, it would leave a sour taste for the rest of the season. Rutgers enters as a home favorite against a Big Ten foe in the season-opener. Go get a win.
May 9: Rutgers has not lost a season-opener since 2017 and has a chance to win another. In fact, some would consider this a very-early must-win game for the Scarlet Knights. Greg Schiano began his second tenure in Piscataway with a Big Ten victory over Michigan State in 2020. Now, he will face another conference foe and one that was 1-11 last season. Northwestern has been at the bottom of the Big Ten and Rutgers has to avoid a Week 1 upset.
Result: W, (1-0, 1-0)
Sept. 9: vs. Temple
The Scarlet Knights stay home after Week 1 to take on Temple. There should not be a letdown in this game, especially after a close call in Philly last year. The Scarlet Knights have to continue to roll and win this game convincingly.
May 9: Temple has become a staple on the schedule for Rutgers. This will be the third-consecutive year that the two face-off — and the first two were very different.
Rutgers ran over Temple 61-14 in 2021 in Piscataway. Last season, the Owls almost pulled off a huge upset at Lincoln Financial Field. What are we in store for this season? Let’s find a happy medium. Rutgers might not put up 60 in this game but it has to be a comfortable win for the Scarlet Knights.
Result: W, (2-0, 1-0)
Sept. 16: vs. Virginia Tech
This might be the biggest swing game on the schedule. The good news, Rutgers will play its third-consecutive game at home to begin the season. This is likely to be a low-scoring affair. The defense for Virginia Tech will be strong as the offense comes with many question marks. If Rutgers can win this game, there might be a path to six wins.
May 9: Virginia Tech comes to SHI Stadium on Sept. 16. What a day that will be for fans, a chance to get a signature victory over an ACC opponent. Last season, Rutgers upset Boston College in Week 1 and it turned out that the Eagles struggled all season. In 2022, the Hokies went 3-8. What is this year going to be like?
This game can go either way. For Virginia Tech, this will likely be viewed as a can’t-lose game early on. For Rutgers, it is. a chance to move to 3-0 and pick up a Power Five victory. The mental battle is, are we ready to believe that Rutgers can put together 60 minutes against Virginia Tech? As we sit here in May, let’s remain skeptical and give this game more thought over the next four months.
Result: W, (3-0, 1-0)
Sept. 23: at Michigan
Michigan has national title hopes this season. The Wolverines finally got to the CFB Playoff, and it was a disappointing effort. A loss to Rutgers would not look good for Michigan. Jim Harbaugh could bring back memory of when Rutgers had the ball in the fourth quarter with a chance to win the game. This one will be lopsided.
May 9: The second Big Ten contest of the year, and first of four gauntlet games on the road, will occur in The Big House. Remember when Rutgers led Michigan 17-14 at halftime last season? Or in 2021 when the Scarlet Knights had the ball late in Ann Arbor looking to steal a victory? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Jim Harbaugh has taken Michigan to the top of the country. J.J. McCarthy is back and the defense will be strong once again. The gap is too big.
Result: L, (3-1, 1-1)
Sept. 30: vs. Wagner
Rutgers returns hope for a get-right game by welcoming Wagner to SHI Stadium once again. This is a chance for the Scarlet Knights to get an easy win and get many players in the game, allowing the starters to rest in the second half.
May 9: After a potential beatdown at the hands of Michigan, the Scarlet Knights will return home with a chance to get right. Wagner came to Rutgers last season and lost 66-7. There is no reason that it is not a similar result in 2023.
Result: W, (4-1, 1-1)
Oct. 7: at Wisconsin
The overall strength of Wisconsin will be hard to keep up with. The Badgers play “man football” and bring more size and strength to the battlefield. With this gave taking place in Madison, it gives Rutgers another home game against a different opponent so that is a positive spin.
May 9: Rutgers was not done any favors this season with some of their road games. Madison is hopeful that Luke Fickell can take the Badgers back near the top of the Big Ten. For that to happen, they cannot lose to Rutgers. Braelon Allen brings toughness to a team that will look to win in the trenches and dominate physically.
Result: L, (4-2, 1-2)
Oct. 14: vs. Michigan State
This is the other swing game for Rutgers on the schedule. Yes, they beat Michigan State in East Lansing in 2020 when the Spartans were way down. Are they ready to take that step and win a game they are supposed to? This is a positive thread here in June and if Rutgers is going to get to six wins, this has to be one of them.
May 9: The Michigan State matchup has brought plenty of hope to Rutgers in previous years. Schiano beat the Spartans in his first game back. Last season, the Scarlet Knights were within one score on the road. Of course, the game sandwiched between was dominated by Kenneth Walker III and Jalen Nailor. Payton Thorne has transferred to Auburn. Mel Tucker and co. struggled last season. This remains a winnable game for the Scarlet Knights. Over the next two games, there has to be a split at minimum.
Result: W, (5-2, 2-2)
Oct. 21: at Indiana
This is the point of the schedule where you look at it and just can't imagine a world where Rutgers is 6-2. That means a bowl berth would be clinched in October. That seems far-fetched but anything is possible. Entering this game, if the Scarlet Knights are 5-2, they should be sky-high against a team they have had success against. The Hoosiers continue to trend down, making this a very winnable game.
May 9: Indiana is currently rebuilding. The Hoosiers have taken huge steps back in recent year but how long will the process actually take? There are some strong recruiting classes coming in but that will not be a factor this season. Last time Rutgers played in Bloomington, it was a 38-3 runaway. While the score might not be as lopsided this season, Rutgers has a chance to win two in a row.
Result: W, (6-2, 3-2)
Nov. 4: vs. Ohio State
There is not much to say about this one. For gamblers, it will be about figuring out if Rutgers can stay within a massive number. This is one of the games that is already decided until further notice.
May 9: As usual, there is a four-game stretch in Rutgers’ schedule that seems impossible (more or less) to get a win. And as usual, Ohio State is in there. C.J. Stroud, Jaxon Smith-Njigba might be gone but the Buckeyes reload. We have seen this year after year. Kyle McCord will likely step into the quarterback position while Marvin Harrison Jr. has a chance to be the best receiver in the country. Buckeyes big.
Result: L, (6-3, 3-3)
Nov. 11: at Iowa
This will be the 10th game of the season, which means Rutgers will know a thing or two about its offense coming in. Whether that is good or bad is yet to be seen.
May 9: Jack Campbell and Riley Moss are gone but Iowa plays defense no matter what. Last season, the offense was historically bad and they address it this offseason by bringing in Cade McNamara. The Hawkeyes are hoping that the Michigan transfer can provide a spark and experience on the offensive side of the ball. It is hard to see Rutgers scoring many points in this game.
Result: L, (6-4, 3-4)
Nov. 18: at Penn State
Matchups matter and Penn State cares about beating Rutgers in a big way. It has gotten to the point where Rutgers struggles to score year in and year out against the Nittany Lions. With another trip to Beaver Stadium coming up, Penn State will look to continue the tradition.
May 9: There are some teams that do not match up well. Obviously, Rutgers has lost to the Ohio State’s and Michigan’s but Penn State has been a true roadblock — and the Nittany Lions seem to enjoy dominating Rutgers. Last season, Rutgers got to double-digit points against Penn State for the first time in a long time. The problem? Penn State scored 55. The gap in talent and physical ability is too big here once again.
Result: L, (6-5, 3-5)
Nov. 25: vs. Maryland
Maryland has separated itself from Rutgers since that overtime loss back in 2020. All questions will be answered to this point but it is hard to imagine that the Terps take it easy on Rutgers with many returners from last season.
May 9: Speaking of staples within the schedule, Maryland and Rutgers should play in the final game of the season every year. That seems to be the way it is going. Over the last two years, the Terps have been on a different level than Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights won an overtime game in 2020 but the last two years have not been close. Once again, Rutgers is entering the final week of the season looking for a bowl berth.
This is when the Virginia Tech game will cree back into memory. After being 5-3, the Scarlet Knights will struggle over the final month.
Result: L, (6-6, 3-6)