Rutgers Redux: Rebuilding or Retrenching?

Evan GreenbergContributor ISeptember 26, 2008

Unfortunately, the optimism about the 2008 season on the Banks has faded into a jaded abyss that was typical of the 27-year bowl drought for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

After dominating the first half against a talented Fresno State team and losing by 17 points, then laying an egg against North Carolina—both played in front of sellout crowds in Piscataway, RU went to Annapolis and came back with a loss against Navy, allowing over 20 points for the third consecutive game this season.

The 0-3 start is the first in the Greg Schiano regime for the Scarlet Knights and their worst start since 1999.

This weekend should be a cakewalk against Morgan State, which counts among its most famous alumni New York Times sports columnist William Rhoden, former Knicks center Marvin Webster, and former New York Giants return specialist Dave Meggett.

Nevertheless, this year must be considered a disappointment for a team coming off three consecutive bowl appearances and two straight wins in bowl games. Most fans were anticipating a bowl appearance, since every team that finishes .500 or better will more than likely earn an invitation to a bowl game.

Some bowl teams could be under .500, as more than half the teams playing in the bowl subdivision will make a bowl.

Unfortunately, while Schiano has done an admirable job in recruiting talented players, both in-state and in Florida, Rutgers is still not deep enough to replace three players who went on to the NFL this year (when was the last time Rutgers lost three players in a season to the NFL?), including all-time leading rusher Ray Rice, who totaled over 2000 yards last year.

When you also remove three starting offensive linemen (Eric Foster, who is on the Indianapolis Colts, is the other player in the NFL), you have a recipe for disenchantment and disappointment. Rutgers is simply not ready to be a perennial power in college football.

Even in a group of Big East teams that have struggled playing outside of their conference, Rutgers will have its problems. A realistic assessment would have been a .500 record, with a much more difficult out-of-conference schedule that would place an extra burden on a team that needs to entirely rebuild its rushing attack.

Unfortunately, the first three games were critical to a fourth consecutive bowl appearance, which is unlikely at this point. A 5-7 record could be considered an achievement this year, with only Syracuse and Army considered likely victories at this juncture.

I look forward to seeing Mike Rosario debut at the RAC this season for the basketball team. Until then, I will be rooting for my Super Bowl champion Giants!