Coming off what many fans consider a disappointing 8-5 bowl-winning season, Rutgers football must live up to expectations in 2008 to sustain this wave of believers in New Jersey.
Rutgers defeated Ball State 52-30 at the International Bowl, earning its second consecutive bowl victory for the first time in school history. Who would have thought that Rutgers fans would be unsatisfied coming off another bowl win?
Maybe it was because Rutgers came into 2007 ranked for the first time in school history and ended up losing three games at home after being perfect the year prior.
The embarrassing defeats to UConn and Louisville also didn’t help. Then RU had to go to some January bowl in Canada and play a weak MAC team.
With the season ticket waiting list still strong, the ever-growing Rutgers fan base in the metropolitan area, and the approval of adding 13,000 seats to Rutgers Stadium, the 2008 Scarlet Knights cannot have another year like 2007.
These are not the years when fans expected one or two Big East wins and maybe 25,000 people showing up for homecoming. Rutgers fans want to compete for a Big East championship and go to a major bowl game. Why not do it in 2008?
First, the Scarlet Knights may have the best offense in school history when all is said and done. Senior QB Mike Teel has no reason not to finish in the top five in passing yards, with an array of wide receivers including Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood—both players had over 1,000 receiving yards last season.
Second, the Big East conference is as even as ever with Rich Rodriguez leaving for Michigan. Looking at the conference overall, you have to look for WVU to be the favorite, with teams like Pitt, USF, UConn, and Rutgers all in the mix right behind the Mountaineers.
Finally, as in 2006, Rutgers has the home schedule to go undefeated on the banks of the old Raritan one more time. This year’s schedule for RU may be the toughest in school history but Rutgers will get a chance to prove itself at home right from the start.
With two nationally televised games on ESPN to start the season, against Fresno State on Labor Day and North Carolina on a Thursday night, RU will have the electricity flowing through Piscataway like it did two years ago.
The other home opponents this season include Morgan State, Army, UConn, Syracuse, and Louisville—all games that RU should and must win.
If RU can win all seven home games and find a way to get two or three road wins, then the Scarlet Knights put themselves in good shape to win 10 games and go to a decent bowl.
Rutgers will most likely need the rest of the conference to beat each other up to finish in the top two, but this could be the year it happens.
It's simple—win and everyone is happy.
Lose, and all of a sudden everyone will bash the stadium expansion, and rumors will begin to fly again that head coach Greg Schiano will bolt for Happy Valley.
Rutgers is now a legitimate college football program, and the fans shouldn't have to be content with eight-win seasons.
Rutgers needs to compete for a Big East title now—if it doesn’t happen this year, fans will wonder if the Schiano era will be plagued by average seasons.