Rutgers football: Reassessing the Scarlet Knights after a 3-0 start
Don’t look now, but Rutgers is 3-0.
Alright, let’s take a step back here. The wins have come over Temple, Syracuse and Delaware. Those are games the Scarlet Knights should have won.
They’ve got a big one coming up in Week 4, though, as they head to Ann Arbor to take on No. 19 Michigan. But we’ll get to that. For now, we need to have the conversation about whether Rutgers is better than we thought they’d be.
Let’s dive in.
Should we revise those preseason expectations?
This is a complicated question considering where the Scarlet Knights are right now.
Yes, Greg Schiano’s group is 3-0. You can’t ask for a better start to the season. But we have to consider who they beat to get to that point.
There’s Temple, which basically speaks for itself since Rutgers won 61-14. There’s Syracuse, which was an underdog to Rutgers — marking the first time in 6 years the Scarlet Knights were favored against a Power 5 opponent. Then there’s Delaware, which plays in the FCS.
Rutgers was picked to finish 6th in the B1G East ahead of only Michigan State. But Sparty is playing well, which means a last-place finish can’t be ruled out. But should we revise those preseason expectations for Rutgers yet? No. Let’s see how Rutgers does against some better competition.
Who has emerged?
How could we not bring up Olakunle Fatukasi as a player who has emerged? He was the B1G’s leading tackler in 2020 and is picking up right where he left off.
In 2 FBS games in 2021, Fatukasi leads the B1G once again with 11 tackles per game and 4.5 tackles for loss. He’s been a big part of a Rutgers defense that has allowed 10.5 points per game this season.
If he can keep this up into B1G play, Fatukasi could absolutely make some noise and earn more All-B1G recognition.
Who has disappointed?
You know, it’s pretty hard to find someone who’s disappointed when your team’s 3-0, the offense is scoring 39 points per game and the defense is holding teams to 10.5 points per game.
In 2 FBS games, Rutgers has scored 7 touchdowns. Two of them were receptions, which is why you could say quarterback Noah Vedral has disappointed.
But on the other side of the coin, that’s a scheme thing. The offense is run-based, so Vedral doesn’t have to throw much. Most of the work is done on the ground, which is why it wouldn’t be totally fair to say Vedral has disappointed this season.
Has he lit it up? Not really. But has he had to? No.
Now, once B1G play starts, Rutgers might have to throw the ball more to stretch out the defenses.
Are they who we thought they were?
You can’t answer if Rutgers is who we thought they were considering the quality of its first 3 opponents.
The Scarlet Knights did what they were supposed to do: start 3-0. If one of these games was closer than it should’ve been, maybe we could get a definitive answer. But the reality of it is we can’t answer this until B1G play starts. It’s a whole different world in conference action than what Rutgers had in its first 3 games.
We’ll have to revisit this question a few games into the conference part of the schedule.
They’ll enter November with a 4-4 record
Rutgers has quite the task to start B1G play: No. 25 Michigan at The Big House. Then, it welcomes Ohio State. Then, it plays a red-hot Michigan State team.
It’s hard to see the Scarlet Knights winning any of those games. Michigan’s playing really well. Ohio State is, well, Ohio State. And Michigan State looks much better this season than it did last year.
The only win in October comes against Illinois in Champaign. But that one comes with a potential upset watch considering it’s on the road against a boom-or-bust Illinois team. For now, let’s chalk it up as a win.
It could be a tale of two months for Schiano’s Scarlet Knights.