Game-by-game predictions for the 2017 Rutgers football season
The Rutgers football team will open up its season tonight against No. 8 Washington. The game will officially kick off the 2017 campaign, one crucial to the team's rebuild led by second-year head coach Chris Ash.
With that being said, it is time to do a game-by-game prediction for the season.
Game 1: Rutgers vs No. 8 Washington
Rutgers is much better than a year ago, while Washington has lost a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball. That won't mean much, though, as the Huskies are still the much better team and should not have a problem taking care of the Knights in a Friday night showdown.
Loss | 0-1
Game 2: Rutgers vs Eastern Michigan
This game is the start of the easy two-game stretch for Rutgers as it has winnable games against the Eagles and Morgan State in back-to-back home games. Eastern Michigan went 7-6 last season, with an appearance in the Popeye's Bahamas Bowl. However, the Eagles aren't projected to be as good this season and Rutgers should really be able to hold its own at home against a mediocre MAC team, no matter the amount of #MACtion that team brings.
Win | 1-1
Game 3: Rutgers vs Morgan State
There is not much to be said about this game. Rutgers takes care of business at home against an FCS team. Easy win.
Win | 2-1
Game 4: Rutgers @ Nebraska
The Knights open up their Big Ten schedule with a brutal crossover game on the road against Nebraska. The Huskers started 2016 with 6 straight wins and climbed up to No. 7 in the AP Poll. They would go on to lose 4 of their final 6 games. Mike Reilly is once again back at the helm in his third straight season and has a new quarterback in Tulane grad-transfer Tanner Lee. Nebraska might not be as good as it was a year ago, but are still good enough to beat Rutgers at home.
Loss | 2-2
Game 5: Rutgers vs No. 2 Ohio State
Ohio State is really good. The Buckeyes are a young team, but their game against Indiana proved that they are the real deal and will have no problem stepping up in what will be the biggest home game of the year for Rutgers. JK Dobbins looked like one of the best running backs in the conference last night against the Hoosiers and JT Barrett is the only three-time captain in Ohio State history. As a quarterback, the importance of that can't be overstated. Denzel Ward and Jordan Fuller also had strong games and are a very strong young cornerback duo. Ohio State wins this one easily.
Loss | 2-3
Game 6: Rutgers @ Illinois
Illinois is one of the few Big Ten teams that Rutgers should be expected to beat. They are a very young team and Lovie Smith has a tough challenge in rebuilding a school that is not exactly football-crazed. Being on the road will be a challenge, especially since the Knights played so poorly against the Illini last season at home. Despite that, I think that this is a really huge game for Rutgers and the team shows up on the road and takes home a hard-earned Big Ten victory.
Win | 3-3
Game 7: Rutgers vs Purdue (Homecoming)
Rutgers will have another winnable Big Ten game on homecoming weekend with Purdue coming to town. Jeff Brohm is the new man in charge for the Boilermakers and like Lovie Smith, will have a lot of work to do with a program at a school that isn't centered around football. In my opinion, this is a game that can make or break the Knights' season. If they win, they prove they are no longer the worst team in the Big Ten. If they lose to Purdue at home, it is a really bad look and a step in the wrong direction for Chris Ash's rebuild. Rutgers needs to win this game and I think they do.
Win | 4-3
Game 8: Rutgers @ No. 11 Michigan
This is going to be the toughest game of the season for Rutgers. Michigan is really good once again and playing on the road in the Big House will be a very tough challenge for the Knights. Wilton Speight is a highly underrated quarterback and will be a big piece in the Wolverine offense. It won't quite be 78-0, but Michigan will win big again.
Loss | 4-4
Game 9: Rutgers vs Maryland (Yankee Stadium)
I hate this game for so many reasons. Number one is that it is at a baseball stadium that holds about 2,000 more people than High Point Solutions Stadium. The second reason being that is against a team that Rutgers has always played crazy games against. I think if this is a true home game for Rutgers, it would have a chance to win, but Maryland is ahead in the rebuild process and a better team at this point. The fact that this game is basically at a neutral site is what leads me to pick the Terrapins in a close one.
Loss | 4-5
Game 10: Rutgers @ No. 6 Penn State
This time a year ago, James Franklin was looking like one of the most overrated and overpaid coaches in college football. But by winning the Big Ten Championship and earning an invite to the Rose Bowl, he silenced all of his haters. With quarterback Trace McSorley and star running back Saquan Barkley both returning, the offense should take another step forward. It is really hard to imagine Rutgers playing well on the road against a top-10 team like Penn State, especially since the Nittany Lions are known for their home-field advantage. PSU wins this one.
Loss | 4-6
Game 11: Rutgers @ Indiana
The Hoosiers put forth a strong performance against No. 2 Ohio State for two quarters on Thursday night. Eventually, they were worn down by simply better players. They are a good team, but Rutgers has always played them really well. But there's something about Indiana that I don't feel great about, as the team just seems to be playing with a lot more confidence this season. On the road, this is a tough one for Rutgers and I don't see the Knights winning.
Loss | 4-7
Game 12: Rutgers vs Michigan State
The Spartans are in a very strange place. A year after going to the College Football Playoff in 2015, they went 3-9 in 2016 with their only conference win being at home against Rutgers. I truly believe their last season was an anomaly and Michigan State will get back to playing quality football again in 2017. In the last game of the season, there is a chance they'll have more to play for than Rutgers, let alone the fact that the Spartans are a much more talented team. A lot of people will pick the Knights as a surprise upset team, but I think Michigan State is legit and will take home the season finale.
Loss | 4-8