This week our Rutgers Scarlet Knights take on the Michigan Wolverines in a Noon matchup on BTN (no overflow channel this week). The Scarlet Knights come in as a big underdog in this one. Michigan is ranked No. 2 in the country and is very deserving of that ranking. The oddsmakers in Vegas agree with the difficulty as Rutgers is a 24-point underdog on the road in Ann Arbor. However, recent results with the Wolverines have some fans dreaming of the upset. To see where this hope comes in we look at the history between Rutgers and Michigan.
Rutgers and Michigan had never played each other before Rutgers joined the Big Ten in 2014. That year Rutgers achieved its first and only win against the Wolverines during the Brady Hoke era. Since then the Knights have lost eight in a row bringing the all time series record to 1-8. During the Chris Ash (Rob Ash according to Harbaugh) era Rutgers was repeatedly beaten soundly by the Wolverines.
The scores were as follows:
2016: The legendary 78-0 game. Most embarrassed I’ve ever been as a Rutgers fan.
2017: 35-14 — the closest Ash was able to keep the game.
These games during the Ash era were hard to watch and a brutal reminder of how far Rutgers had fallen off. However during the 2020-22 seasons Rutgers began to have hope that we may be able to beat the Wolverines again. Greg Schiano returned and the games against Michigan began to look different.
Here is a closer look at those matchups:
2020: This game started off as a dream scenario for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights turned over Michigan on the first series of the game and after a bomb from Noah Vedral to Aron Cruickshank made the score 7-0 Scarlet Knights. The strong start continued as Rutgers stopped the Michigan offense again and drove all the way down the field to score on a Johnny Langan quarterback run. 14-0 Rutgers. Things continued to go Rutgers way as another stop on the Michigan offense led to a Valentino Ambrosio field goal. The Knights were rolling and it looked like a thrashing of the Wolverines was about to take place. Alas, things were not meant to be as Joe Milton was replaced at quarterback and Cade McNamara made an immediate impact for the Maize n’ Blue. The Michigan offense went three plays and 63 yards to score before the half on a 46-yard bomb to wide receiver Cornelius Johnson. 17-7 Rutgers.
The second half started and Michigan immediately cut into the deficit on a ninety-five yard kickoff return from Giles Jackson. It was a demoralizing score as Rutgers 17-0 lead immediately seemed to be gone. However Noah Vedral was in the midst of his best game as a Scarlet Knight and responded with a huge pass to Bo Melton. Rutgers went 75 yards in three plays to pad their lead and say “were not going out without a fight.” 24-14 Rutgers. This lead to another another strong drive from Cade McNamara who drove Michigan down the field easily to bring Michigan back to within three. 24-21 Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights were able to respond with another solid scoring drive and kick a field goal to go up by six points. 27-21 Rutgers. However this lead was not to last as Michigan went down the field on two consecutive drives and scored two touchdowns on passed from McNamara. 35-27, Michigan. This lead to an eight-point lead and one final chance for the Scarlet Knights to tie the game. Noah Vedral lead the team down the field in the final minutes of the game and converted two incredible plays in a row to tie the game. The touchdown was a fourth down play where Vedral scrambled around under duress and was able to find Cruickshank for a touchdown in the middle of the field. He followed this play up with a quarterback draw where he refused to go down and hit the end zone for the two-point conversion.
Overtime began and the Michigan Wolverines started with the ball. They drove the ball a short way down the field and missed the field goal. The Scarlet Knights had the ball needing just a field goal to complete the upset. The Scarlet Knights ran the ball three times and then set up Ambrosio for a 45-yard field goal. Tragically the ball went wide left and the game continued. The Scarlet Knights then hit an awesome trick play to tight end Jovani Haskins and just needed a stop to beat the Wolverines. Once again McNamara answered the bell and drove the ball down the field for the touchdown. Michigan got the ball first in the next overtime session and repeated their feat to go up by a touchdown. Rutgers had to score a touchdown next to keep the game going, but they were unable to match Michigan as Vedral threw a pick on fourth and long to lose the game.
2021: The 2021 Rutgers vs. Michigan game was not quite as exciting as the 2020 version but it did inspire some similar late game angst for fans of both teams. The game started off strong for the home team Wolverines as they bullied the Scarlet Knights down the field on the first drive of the game. Michigan went 17 plays for 74 yards and scored on a one-yard rush from running back Hassan Haskins. It looked at that point like it may be a long day for the Rutgers defense. Rutgers was able to pull some momentum back on a long drive of their own as the offense kept the ball for their own 13-yard drive that ended in a field goal to make the game 7-3 Michigan. The rest of the first half did not look great for Rutgers as they allowed three straight scoring drives in the second quarter. Michigan went touchdown, Field Goal, Field goal to make the score 20-3, Wolverines. The Michigan faithful seemed to have a nice stress free homecoming win brewing. However the second half started and the Rutgers defense came out with their hair on fire. They stopped the Wolverines on three straight plays and the offense picked them up with a long 12-play, 91-yard drive to make the score 20-10. The defense forced another three and out and the offense again drove down the field this time kicking a field goal to get within one score of the home team.
The defense continued to force three and outs, and the offense ran the ball well on the stout Michigan front. However, another long Rutgers drive ended with blocked field goal from twenty-nine yards out, and Michigan had a chance to end the game with any score. The defense again answered the call and forced a long missed field goal from Michigan Kicker Jake Moody. The Scarlet Knights had one final chance to tie or win the game with 1:50 left in the game. Unfortunately, Noah Vedral was strip sacked from behind on a quarterback draw, and Michigan was able to run out the clock for a 20-13 win over the Scarlet Knights.
2022: The 2022 game was not quite as close as the previous two editions of the games between these two teams. However the Scarlet Knights put together a great first half to take a lead 17-14 going into halftime. The highlights of the first included a blocked punt returned for a touchdown by Timmy Ward and a Gavin Wimsatt to Sean Ryan touchdown pass. The Michigan faithful were very nervous going into the half and the college football world was tweeting and talking about a possible upset brewing in Piscataway. Things quickly changed in the second half as Gavin Wimsatt’s inexperience showed up in a big way. He threw multiple interceptions early in the third quarter that took all of the energy out of the team. Michigan woke up in all phases of the game and showed why they were a team worthy of the college football playoffs. They ran up the score in the second half and won 52-17.
The Scarlet Knights have a huge challenge ahead of them with this Michigan team. However, looking at these last 2.5 games should give Rutgers hope that we can at least compete, and with a few lucky bounces our way possibly win against the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines. As always lets go Scarlet Knights! Chop the Wolverines!