The State of the State: New Jersey Look at College Football Futures

August 18, 2023

Are there any more wins on the horizon for Rutgers?

© Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Drowning in the bottom of the Big Ten, the Scarlet Knights have an uphill climb.

Admittedly, it’s not easy to get overly excited about a college football program that’s headed nowhere.

That might sound harsh – and perhaps it is – but it’s also essentially the reality when one talks about the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Even if the Knights take a step forward, they’re certainly not surpassing the heavyweights that lurk in the Big Ten.

If you’re one of those casual fans who’s reading this thinking, “Wasn’t Rutgers pretty good not that long ago?” you’re not wrong. But context is required.

The good news is that the last time the program was good, it was headed up by Greg Schiano who departed Rutgers in 2011 after leading the team to winning seasons in five of his final six years – including a remarkable 2006 season, where the Knights went 11-2. After eight years away, Schiano returned and will begin his fourth season at Rutgers “stint No. 2.”

The bad news is that all of Schiano’s previous success took place in the now football-less Big East. Even worse news is the fact that Schiano is attempting to rekindle the magic in the Big Ten. And it hasn’t gone well. Schiano’s return has resulted in a conference record of 6-21. Last season the Knights won just one game in the Big Ten. Sadly, even an uptick in conference wins won’t see Rutgers posing much of a threat to the likes of Michigan and Ohio State. 

So, perhaps the only way one can truly be excited about the upcoming football season at Rutgers is to bet on it.

In its simplest terms, the scouting report on the Scarlet Knights reads something like this: Defensively, Schiano’s bunch is gritty and capable of keeping Rutgers in just about any game outside of the Big Ten’s elite opponents (define that however you’d like). Offensively, the 2022 squad was putrid. Outside of their lopsided win over Wagner, the Knights averaged just 13 points per game. Obviously, that’s mission critical heading into the season, and one can expect to see Schiano lean on the run game, which was “decent” a season ago.

Perhaps the most intriguing number when one examines Rutgers, however, is this one: 4.0.

That’s currently the SuperBook Sports’ projected win total, and regardless of the challenge ahead for Rutgers, it’s a number worth consideration. There’s no need for a detailed scouting report – a quick look at the schedule will do just fine.

The Scarlet Knights open against Northwestern, Temple and Virginia Tech. They’re all home games, thus they’re all winnable games, but there’s truly only one lock on the entire schedule – Wagner on Sept. 30. Interestingly enough, and outside of Wagner, there are only two teams on Rutgers’ schedule with smaller win totals – Northwestern (3.0) and Indiana (3.5), who they’ll play on the road. Temple and Virginia Tech – both with win totals of 5.0 – represent the other “winnable” games. Every other game is an obvious loss, at least on paper.

That leaves a total of five winnable – let’s go with “debatably winnable” – games on the entire schedule.

Bud Parmalee’s pick: Rutgers under 4.0 wins in 2023 (-120)

Nobody wants to bet the under on any team’s season win total. But in this case, it’s the prudent thing to do. A five-win season for the State University of New Jersey would mean everything went perfectly – and by “perfectly,” we’re talking about simply beating all the beatable teams on the schedule. If you really foresee any big upsets, then by all means, take the over. But those would require luck or a crystal ball. The chances of a four-win push are high, so there’s very little risk involved. And the odds that Rutgers stubs its toe against anyone other than Wagner are better than pulling off an upset. We’re not saying to root against the Scarlet Knights, but if you’re going to watch either way, you might as well profit if things don’t go well.