Earlier this evening, Rutgers recorded their fifth win of 2009 by defeating FBS cellar-dweller Army , 27-10.
Hope you DVR’ed that sucker, because it might be the last chance to see a Rutgers victory this season.
I Schiano you not—The Scarlet Knights could easily drop each of their next five matchups, which are all against Big East opponents.
You might be thinking, “did you eat one too many Fat Sandwiches and has the grease paralyzed your brain?”
Well, honestly, chowing down on a Fat Darrell does sound pretty good right about now, but the truth is I haven’t had one in years.
However, one thing I have eaten recently is a nice, healthy dose of reality.
And the reality is that the 2009 Rutgers Scarlet Knights are not the team they were expected to be this year, and it’s not even close.
They are not good enough to win the Big East.
They are not one of the top teams in the Big East.
They are not anchored by a veteran offensive line, nor are they led by a mature defensive unit.
What are they then?
Well, by all standards they would be classified as a mediocre team who has won the games they were supposed to win and lost the games they were expected to compete in.
To illustrate RU’s mediocrity to date, I present two high-level statistics: The records of teams played and the point differential in wins and losses.
Rutgers’s five victories came against Howard, FIU, Maryland, Texas Southern, and Army. Combined, these teams have an aggregate record of 10-23, or a winning percentage of .303. Rutgers outscored these opponents 171-45.
By looking solely at the box scores, you would think Rutgers was a top ten team with those point totals, scoring roughly eighty percent of the total points in those five contests.
But the most telling statistic here is the winning percentage of these teams, which is putrid. Also, no team Rutgers has beaten has more than three wins.
So it’s not like Rutgers is racking up victories against quality opponents. It’s quite the contrary—RU has been feasting on cupcakes.
But everyone plays cupcakes!
This is true, but not everyone plays as many as RU has played this year. Even so, cupcakes rarely bring out the best of any team. (They only make you, your stats, and your record inflated and fat).
Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, teams with a combined record of 12-1 and a ridiculous winning percentage of .923, beat the Rutgers rather routinely. They outscored them 71-32, although the Pitt game was only decided by a touchdown.
Well, an argument can be made that Cincy and Pitt (currently ranked No. 5 and No. 20 nationally) might be the top two teams in the Big East this year, so who is to say they won’t beat the rest of the league like they beat Rutgers.
Fair enough. They might.
But the thing that should concern Rutgers and create doubt about the rest of 2009 is how Rutgers has looked against inferior opponents.
The offensive struggles. The defense gives up big plays and is inconsistent in tackling. The running game is only mildly effective.
These observations are understandable when facing quality opponents, but they are unacceptable otherwise.
For example, Army was hanging with Rutgers for most of the game last night. If it weren’t for several key fumbles and a blocked punt, Army is very much in the game.
Savage was having trouble completing passes.
Joe Martinek broke loose at times thanks to gaping holes but was largely ineffective and looked slow. The defense did create a few turnovers but were by no means dominant.
Army is one of the worst teams in college football, and Rutgers had its hands full for three quarters.
This raises the question, if Rutgers can’t put a team like Army away, how can they expect to compete against the rest of the Big East?
Cincinnati and Pittsburgh already “came there and did that,” and it doesn’t get much easier for the Scarlet Knights at home.
Rutgers will host USF and West Virginia, and they need no introduction. They are always out for blood against Rutgers and will show no mercy.
UConn won’t put fifty points on the board, but don’t think you can mosey into Rentschler Field and expect a win. The Huskies and their fans will have none of that.
Louisville might be the weakest of the bunch, but PapaJohn’s Stadium isn’t exactly a treat for visitors, and Syracuse is due for a win against the Scarlet Knights.
You can bet the Carrier Dome will be rocking for that one.
It’s not necessarily time for Rutgers to panic, but they have not instilled any confidence in a fan base expecting to win on any given week.
Coach Schiano hasn’t been able to lead his squad to a convincing victory where the three phases of the game were operating on all cylinders.
In the only meaningful games played this far, Rutgers got embarrassed once and failed to capitalize on golden opportunities in the other.
In the not-so-meaningful games, the Scarlet Knights got the “W” but not much else.
After analyzing this sample of seven games, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Rutgers struggle to win another game this year.
That being said, I see Rutgers season ending one of three ways:
1) Five Wins, Seven Losses:
The unthinkable happens and Rutgers lays an egg in the Big East, losing all seven games. Point Guard Paulus passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns en route to a huge win at home. Steve Kragthorpe wins one Big East game in his last year as Louisville’s head coach.
2) Six Wins, Six Losses:
Rutgers’ only Big East victory comes against the ghost of Greg Robinson and the born-again Orange. Paulus gets pummeled and Rutgers retains some NY/NJ pride. (Think, Rutgers fans, if you could only win one more game this year, you’re telling me you wouldn’t want it to be versus the Cuse?)
3) Seven Wins, Five Losses:
Schiano & Company take care of the Cardinals and the Orange to snag two Big East victories, but the “Chop” stops there. Rutgers’ infantile offense is no match for USF’s aggressive defense, and Schiano has no answer for B.J. Daniels. UConn will not be denied at the Rent and will avenge last year’s missed-field-goal-as-time-expired loss at Rutgers Stadium. West Virginia slams the door to end Rutgers season and continues its fourteen-game win streak against the Scarlet Knights.
In short, the obvious worst-case scenario is going winless from here on out and ending up with a 5-7 record (0-7 Big East).
This would be absolutely devastating for Rutgers Football and recruiting would undoubtedly be affected, but it’s time to prepare for this possibility.
As optimistic as I try to be, I just cannot see more than two victories in the next five games.
There is simply no evidence to believe otherwise.
Sure, Rutgers could surprise us all and end up with nine or ten wins, but after seeing these first seven games, who would bet on that?
I’m not a betting man, but you can bet I’m going to hang on to this DVR’ed Army game just in case.