Rutgers is 4-2 at this point of the season, playing four games that
were every close throughout the fourth quarter and beyond. Easy wins
over Norfolk State and Eastern Michigan did not have as much drama,
but Rutgers fans found themselves on a roller coaster ride through the
other four games. Here are some good and bad points to take away
from those wins and losses:
RU averaged 37.2 points per game in its four wins
Rutgers lost to a pair of top 25 teams with a combined record
The offense has featured a 100-yard rusher in five of its six
Rutgers has given up more than 50 points twice this season
The offense has given up 22 sacks, ranking 118th out 123 FBS
Special teams is responsible for two TD returns, two blocked
kicks and a big fake field goal
Special teams has only converted five of nine field goals
The first-year starters
Rutgers has introduced a trio of first-year starters who have made
big differences and played major parts in each of RU's wins.
Steve Longa - The nation's 17th leading tackler has racked up
61 tackles thus far. Longa has also been the team's defensive MVP,
not bad for a kid who just turned 19 years old.
Paul James - Up until he went down with a lower leg injury
in game no.4, James was the nation's leading rusher. He solidified
the RU rushing attack and opened things up for the passing game.
Leonte Carroo - Every time he touches the ball, something
good happens for Rutgers. He is tied for fourth in the nation with
seven TD receptions and is not even RU's primary receiving target.
Struggles were to be expected considering Rutgers lost its top three
corners, its starting free safety and nickelback (three of whom were
drafted). This Rutgers secondary was young and inexperienced coming
in and some bad breaks could make things worse. Here are some of the
unfavorable occurrences this season at the cornerback position:
Lew Toler breaks his arm against Louisville
Gareef Glashen misses two games for personal reasons
Ian Thomas leaves the time citing he wants 'to play baseball'
Glashen is back, but without Toler and Thomas, RU will look to its
young cornerback duo of Anthony Cioffi and Nadir Barnwell to pick up
the slack. The RU safeties have also had their share of forgettable
moments through the first half of the season.
Rutgers has played eight true freshman thus far this season, the
most since 2011 when eight true freshmen also saw the field. Here is
a ranking of how those freshmen in terms of how much they have
contributed this season for Rutgers:
Rutgers' schedule has introduced the team some tough competition
early on, pitting the Scarlet Knights against two of its toughest
tests of the season in road contests against Fresno State and
Louisville. The second half of the schedule should be a little more
favorable. Here's a glimpse at what Rutgers is up against:
Oct 26 vs Houston - The Cougars have put together a 5-0 mark
thus far but those wins have not come against the most spectacular
competition. Outside of its FCS opponent, Houston has defeated four
teams with a combined record of 7-17. Even if the Cougars find a way
to upset BYU this weekend, it will not be a dominating undefeated
team that comes to Piscataway.
Nov 2 vs Temple - The Owls are off to an underwhelming 0-6
start and things do not look very promising for a dramatic
turnaround in Philly this year. First-year head coach Matt Rhule is
struggling with a young team whose losses include forgettable ones
to the likes of Fordham and Idaho. The Owls don't look to pose much
of a threat to the Scarlet Knights.
Nov 16 vs Cincinnati - The 4-2 Bearcats have reached
that mark by beating three FBS teams with a combined record of 1-17.
A loss to USF and a battering at the expense of Illinois leave Cincy
as one of the weakest 4-2 teams in the country. The days of Brian
Kelly are long gone in Cincinnati as the Bearcats will likely have
to fight just to be in the middle of the pack in the AAC.
Nov 21 @ Central Florida - This looks to be Rutgers' toughest
matchup through the rest of the season. UCF's 4-1 record is legit
with a defeat over Penn State and a three-point loss to South
Carolina. Friday night's game against Louisville will have league
title implications on the line. Win or lose against Louisville, UCF will
still be a tough matchup for Rutgers on a short week.
Nov 30 @ UConn - The last conference game featuring these two
teams isn't likely to carry with it a lot of buzz. Chances are, a
downtrodden Husky team will have dialed it in by then as UConn is
still searching for its first win. The crowd could wind up being
very sparse as UConn continues to flounder in the post-Randy Edsall
Dec 7 vs South Florida - The Bulls never play very well in the
cold and things could be icy for USF by that time. The 2-4 Bulls
will have to pull off some upsets if they intend to go bowling. That
doesn't look likely and by the time Bulls make it to Piscataway, USF
fans could already be counting the days until next season.
So what lies ahead for Rutgers? A conference title is not yet out of
reach but Rutgers will need some dominoes to fall. First, the
Scarlet Knights will need to win out. Secondly, UCF needs to upset
Louisville Friday night. If that does not happen, the Cardinals
would need to lose two conference games for RU to have a chance at a
BCS bowl. With Louisville's final five games against USF, UConn,
Houston, Memphis and Cincinnati, two losses seem highly, highly
unlikely. But if UCF defeats Louisville, things could get very
interesting down the stretch. Louisville would still need to lose another game, but the Cardinals fell victim to conference upsets against Syracuse and UConn last season.
Even if a league title is off the table, Rutgers still has a lot to
play for over the next couple of months. The Scarlet Knights have a
real chance to reach double digit wins for the first time since
2006. That goal would still be attainable with another regular
season loss. RU would just have to close out its season with a bowl
It will also be very important for this Rutgers team to build some
momentum heading into the Big Ten. Next year, teams like USF, Temple
and SMU will be replaced by Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State.
This young RU team still needs some grooming for what will be a step
up in competition next year. Rutgers has proven capable of competing with Big
Ten teams on the recruiting front, but now the coaching staff will
have to develop that talent. The second half of this season could go
a long way in that developmental phase as well as serving as a telling sign of how good this coaching staff can be.