By Ryan Clark
In 2018, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights went 1-11 (0-9 in the conference), with their lone win being over Texas St in the season opener. They held fourth quarter leads against Northwestern and Michigan St, but could not hang on. Aside from those, though, most of the games were blowouts.
This has been coach Chris Ash’s first head coaching job. Prior to here, he was the defensive coordinator for Ohio St, Arkansas, and Wisconsin. Ash signed a five-year contract in 2015 to be Rutgers’ head coach. Since then, Rutgers has gone 7-29 (3-24). His best season was in 2017, when they went 4-8 (3-6). To say that Ash is on the hottest of hot seats is probably an understatement.
The Knights have recruited fairly well, but the wins have been hard to come by. So, what’s the problem? It’s tough to say. It doesn’t help that they play in the B1G East, arguably the toughest division of college football.
So, how will the year go for Rutgers? Let’s take a look at the crystal ball:
Week 1 (Aug 30) – vs UMass: The Minutemen come to town for this Fri night opener. If this game were only a minute long, I might give UMass a chance, but the Minutemen learn the hard way that the game is actually 60 minutes long. Rutgers takes this one, 27-14. Record: 1-0.
Week 2 (Sep 7) – at Iowa: In this early season conference game, Iowa’s defensive front manhandles the Knights. Rutgers won’t be able to stop Iowa’s rushing attack either. Iowa rolls, 34-13. Record: 1-1.
Week 3 (Sep 21) – vs Boston College: Rutgers uses the bye week to focus on BC. The Eagles have the edge talent-wise, but this one will be a fun one to watch. It goes down to the wire, but BC escapes Piscataway with a 27-24 victory. Record: 1-2.
Week 4 (Sep 28) – at Michigan: Oh joy, a trip to the Big House! What fun they’ll have! This one won’t be pretty. Michigan proves again that a knight is no match for a wolverine, as they scratch, bite, and claw Rutgers, 47-10. Record: 1-3.
Week 5 (Oct 5) – vs Maryland: In a game of B1G bottom feeders, Maryland has a slight edge. Rutgers knows this is a winnable game, but penalties and a costly turnover near the end of the game do them in. The Terrapins win this one, 27-21. Record: 1-4.
Week 6 (Oct 12) – at Indiana: In what will be Coach Ash’s final game, The Scarlet Knights get outmatched and out-coached. Ash will be fired the next day. The Hoosiers aren’t really that much better than Rutgers, but they clobber the Knights, 31-7. Record: 1-5.
Week 7 (Oct 19) – vs Minnesota: Rutgers offensive coordinator John McNulty is named the interim head coach, but the result will be the same. The Gophers are improving, while the Knights are falling into despair. Minnesota wins this one, 38-13. Record: 1-6.
Week 8 (Oct 26) – vs Liberty: Someone famously said, “Give me Liberty, or give me death!” I’m pretty sure it was Rutgers’ athletic director Pat Hobbs. Yeah, that sounds right. Well, be careful what you wish for, bub. The Flames will be ready for this one. It takes OT, but Rutgers comes away with the W, 35-28. Record: 2-6.
Week 9 (Nov 2) – at Illinois: While Illinois has its share of problems, the Scarlet Knights have their own issues to contend with. The Fighting Illini reign supreme in this contest, 24-16. Record: 2-7.
Week 10 (Nov 16) – vs Ohio St: The Buckeyes come to Piscataway for what surely will be the game of the year. Just kidding. Ohio St is just too much for the Scarlet Knights to handle. Not even the jam-packed SHI Stadium crowd can aid their team, as Ohio St vanquishes the Knights, 44-9. Record: 2-8.
Week 11 (Nov 23) – vs Michigan St: At this point, it has to be difficult for the Knights’ players to get motivated for games. The Spartans come into this game having just come off a hard-fought loss to Michigan. Nothing like a game against Rutgers to cheer you up, though. Michigan St takes this one, 33- 20. Record: 2-9.
Week 12 (Nov 30) – at Penn St: One last chance to salvage a dismal season. If this game were at home, I might give Rutgers somewhat of a chance. The Knights give the Nittany Lions a fight, but come up short, 31-24. Record: 2-10.
So, there you have it. The crystal ball has foreseen an 2-10 (0-9) record for Rutgers. They are just not at a point where they can compete yet.
In the offseason, the biggest question will be who will replace Ash as coach. The crystal ball has no clue at this point, but whoever it is will have a long-term project on their hands. Maybe Greg Schiano can be talked into coming back?