Rutgers Truck Parked Outside Nebraska Football's Memorial Stadium
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Buy or Sell: 2020 Rutgers Scarlet Knights Football

July 12, 2020

In the coming weeks, Brandon Vogel and Derek Peterson are running through Big Ten programs for a “Buy or Sell” kind of opponent preview. We’ll keep the list here for those just jumping in and want to recap:

Brandon Derek
Indiana Hoosiers Buy Sell
Maryland Terrapins Sell Sell
Michigan Wolverines Buy Sell
Michigan State Spartans Sell Sell
Ohio State Buckeyes Sell Buy
Penn State Nittany Lions Buy Buy

Greg Schiano! Noah Vedral! Life in Piscataway, New Jersey! Just what kind of life that will be right away remains to be seen, though. Things have been awfully dreary of late; this is a team that was outscored 355-51 in Big Ten play last season, and that included four different shutouts. Buying or selling Rutgers as a competent football team in Schiano’s first year back?

Brandon Vogel: Buy

Competent is a good word to use here. I’m not sure Rutgers will have a drastically different win total than it has in recent seasons, but I do think Schiano will have the Knights looking a lot better while waiting for wins down the road. Rutgers went wild in the transfer market welcoming seven Power 5 transfers and one from UCF in hopes of an immediate talent upgrade. That includes Vedral, who is an intriguing fit for offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson. Mike Gundy plucked Gleeson from the obscurity of the Ivy League, where he was putting up impressive numbers at Princeton, and his creative approach to spread football should have a match at quarterback. This being Schiano, however, defense is how the Knights will likely carve out a path in the rugged East Division. The Knights return most of the production from last year’s defense, which should offer a good starting point. All Year 1s are this way to some degree, but this season really is about establishing a base for future development. It’s going to be hard work. There might be one game on the schedule—the season-opener against Monmouth—in which Rutgers is favored. Somehow finding three wins out of this would be a pretty good first step, but even if that is too high a bar right now, I expect Rutgers to be a much tougher out than it has been over the past four seasons.

Derek Peterson: Buy

In their first six Big Ten games of 2019, the Scarlet Knights had three offensive touchdowns. They didn’t play in a single Big Ten affair that was respectable by game’s end. Credit that to their “perfect storm” concoction of minimal offensive threat (126th in yards per play, 129th in points per play, 110th in turnovers lost) and swiss cheese run defense (104th in yards per carry allowed). Opponents didn’t have to throw to score, and Rutgers couldn’t do anything to score. The combination of Sean Gleeson and Noah Vedral for a modernized offense should be enough to get the ball moving for Rutgers against the lower-tier teams in the Big Ten. The defense added Brendon White and Malik Barrow, two former 4-stars at defensive back and defensive tackle (respectively) from Ohio State via the transfer portal, Ireland Burke from Boston College, a former 3-star defensive tackle, and Michigan grad transfer defensive tackle Michael Dwumfor. Schiano has his top linebackers returning from a season ago and some promise in the secondary. If you judge Year 1 on wins, you’ll be looking at the picture wrong. Schiano, on account of his past successes in Piscataway, will have a long runway to try and get this program off the ground. The first task is to just make sure it can function the same way as its Big Ten peers. If Rutgers is competitive week in and week out, then mission accomplished in Year 1.

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