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October 16, 2009

Where Do They Stand?
Tony Ambrosini

 

Excuse my absence as of the last couple of weeks. Our family is getting ready to move back to New Jersey from Pennsylvania, so things have been just a little insane.

The good part is that during that time, Rutgers football has not been very compelling. They went on the road and beat up a Maryland team that is clearly rebuilding. Then Rutgers had a bye week before walloping Texas Southern, a lower-tier FCS program.

But now we are in a different phase of the season. Other than next week’s game against Army, we are in full swing of conference play.

So while we don’t want to discount what has already happened (Rutgers is 4-1 after all, regardless of opponent), this is the point where Rutgers begins the season…on national TV, at home, under the lights against Pittsburgh.

The Panthers have mostly done well to this point. They looked crisp at Buffalo. They slugged one out with Navy, like most middle-tier teams in the country tend to do. Then Pittsburgh played three really good quarters of football before forgetting how to advance the ball at NC State. Once conference play started, they took care of Louisville with ease (in the second half), followed by an offensively-challenged victory at home against Connecticut.

Rutgers, meanwhile, have feasted on two FCS teams and benefited from three turnovers against Florida International, only winning the game 23-15. It’s still tough to figure out what the Scarlet Knights are at this point.

Pittsburgh has dropped four straight in the series and were embarrassed in the second half of last year’s game 54-34 after Pitt QB Bill Stull was knocked out of the game. This year a talented, experienced Panther squad will be motivated to avenge the loss. Also, Stull is having a great season (66.7% comp, 8.54 yards/pass, 13 TD, 3 INT) on a team that likes to run.

Rutgers will start true freshman Tom Savage at quarterback in what will be his first high-profile start of the season in some inclement weather. How will he react in a game that finally matters? 

According to Brendan Prunty of the Newark Star-Ledger, perhaps Rutgers will try to keep Pittsburgh off-balance by implementing some wildcat packages.

The opening week debacle at home against Cincinnati looks like it is going to come back to haunt Rutgers. The Bearcats are still unbeaten and are coming off of an excellent road win at USF. At most, Cincinnati is losing two conference games. This now means Rutgers has to run the table if they are shooting for a BCS bowl berth. I have questions as to how realistic this is.

Rutgers has a shot to redeem itself on national TV after looking really bad against Cincinnati in September. However, with the cold, rainy weather I think the environment favors Pittsburgh and they will end up escaping with a road victory with the experience edge at quarterback being the difference.

Predicted score: Pittsburgh 20, Rutgers 17

Tony Ambrosini contributes to the Bleacher Report with articles and commentary on NFL and NCAA football. You can check out his profile right here for all the latest: http://bleacherreport.com/users/129820-tony-ambrosini


Tony is also an Exclusive Staff Writer for Fantasy Football Mastermind: the Definitive Fantasy Information Service. His work can be found at the listing here: http://www.ffmastermind.com/articles.php

 

 

October 11, 2009

Rutgers vs Texas Southern Recap
By: Pete

Not much for the Scarlet Knights to gain from Saturday other then getting Savage back on track and getting tuned up for Friday’s match up against Pitt. The defense once again played the starring role (pitching a 42-0 shut out), allowing just 126 yards of offense and specifically minus 25 yards on the ground.



Beyond training camp very little has been said about the emergence of Tim Brown as the “go to” receiver in this group. If you didn’t think he was our guy before, you will now. In a second quarter reception over the middle, deuce put his hands out to snare a Savage pass and was immediately flipped in the air by multiple defenders. He still somehow managed to hold onto the ball as he crashed to the ground. Quietly, Timmy Brown is putting together an all Big East caliber year with 452 yards receiving including two 100 yard games.



Just how much of the underperforming running game can be attributed to uneven performances of Martinek and Brooks or poor line play is still uncertain. What I did notice on Saturday though was an o-line that just didn’t seem to have the forward surge to allows runners a few steps beyond the line of scrimmage before contact. Another point is that rather then holes it seems Martinek, Brooks and Williams have slots or cracks to run through which is much more difficult for straight line runners like Martinek and Brooks.



Tom Savage performed efficiently (14-21, 150 yds., 1TD) and once again did not commit any mistakes (turnovers). They got him throwing both from the pocket and short passes rolling right and he also threatened several times with the long ball once connecting with deuce on a 34 yard TD. I am completely satisfied with this performance, less for Tom’s 28 yard scramble in which he put his head down and barreled directly into an oncoming linebacker for two additional yards at the end of the run. Tom you throw an absolutely great ball but you need to stop by Fred Hill Sr’s office sometime to get some tips on sliding. Please also stop watching Florida games.



Can we all agree that with Rocket’s performance against the two FCS opponents that he’s played against (31 carried for 221 yds., 1 TD) that he’s earned a call up to BCS play. His cutting, explosive running style is completely different then (and complementary to) Martinek and Brooks. Whereas Schiano likes to allocate blocks of time to these two, I think he can stick Rocket in the middle of a series as a change of pace back who can also break one off any time he touches the ball. He adds a completely different dimension to the running game. Why not make opposing teams prepare for three backs who have all eclipsed 100 yards in games this year?



A few other take aways from Saturday: Has anyone else seen the development of Devin McCourty this year into an outstanding gunner on punt coverage? He’s consistently been the first player downfield either tying up or delivering a punishing open field blow to the opposing return man. Speaking of open field tackling, on Saturday Khaseem Greene made up for some sloppy tacking by the defense on a play coming from across the field and about 10-15 yards behind the Texas Southern runner and just buried him along the sideline during a third quarter run.

October 1, 2009

"Keep Choppin"
By: Nick Portanova

 

In 2000, Rutgers made a good decision to hire University of Miami, defensive coordinator Greg Schiano.  Since his arrival, the team's overall record is a mediocre 49-52.  However, from 2006-present date, they are 31-12.  The father of four has brought the Scarlet Knights to unprecedented heights and is credited for one of the greatest turn-around stories in college football history.  The school has gone to four straight bowl games(won 3), reached a top 25 ranking as high as 7(2006), and are completing a 102-million dollar expansion of Rutgers Stadium.

It is difficult to turn-it-around and it is even more challenging stay on track.  Success will breed confidence and confidence will breed success, but success can also create a climate of unrealistic expectations.  Never the less, I believe this program will reach all of their goals, but in due time.  Rutgers now has one of the best training facilities in the country.  This can be directly attributed to the progress of the program, and is another sign of the intention to "keep choppin".  Schiano is an excellent recruiter.  The positive impact he has made along with the expansion of the athletic dept and steady espn coverage, will continue to pay dividends in recruiting.

Freshman Tom Savage has the potential to be the best quarterback in school history.  Unfortunately, he sustained a head injury during an unimpressive winning effort over FIU, two weeks ago.  He didn't play in Saturday's game against Maryland and according to espn, didn't practice Tuesday the 29th.  The Scarlet Knights will face a less talented Texas Southern this week at home and will be off the following week.  That will at the very least will give the future star an extended period to recover.  Overall, the offense needs to improve.  The defense has played better since the week one meltdown, scoring three touchdowns in as many games.    

I think this team will go 6-6 and go to their fifth straight bowl game.

 

 

September 26, 2009

Rutgers vs Maryland Preview
By: Pete

Rutgers Looking Into Mirror of Sorts vs Maryland
In spite of having to replace 12 starters entering training camp, the Maryland Terrapins had aspirations of competing for the ACC Championship entering the season. However, the Terps have disappointed fans, following a very similar path to Rutgers thus far as seen in their opening season 52-13 blow out on the road at Cal, a game in which Maryland’s defense gave up 542 yards of total offense (Sound familiar). The following week, the Terps barely pulled out a win against FCS Top 5 James Madison winning 38-35 in OT but couldn’t repeat last week in its 32-31 home loss to Middle Tennessee State. Much like Coach Schiano, Coach Ralph Friedgen finds himself scratching his head entering this week’s match up against its first BCS opponent since the opening week. And like Schiano, Friedgen has been plagued by uninspiring play at the QB position and is looking for life signs from a defense that was victimized for 137 yards and 2  TD’s on just 10 carries from Javid Best in the opener.

The similarities end there however as Maryland’s running game, led by Junior Da’Rel Scott has been one of the few bright spots for the Terrapins this year along with better then expected play from an o-line that replaced three starters entering the year. As a sophomore, Scott out of Plymouth-Whitemarsh HS in Conshohocken, PA, earned 1st team All ACC honors rushing 1,133 yards and averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Scoring TD’s in each of his first three games, the highly versatile Scott has maintained form rushing for 275 yards on 43 carries for 6.4 yards per carry and has made his presence felt in the receiving game along with star sophomore receiver Torrey Smith (14 catches for an incendiary 274 yards thus far) where he has caught 5 passes for 42 yards through the first three contests.

While Scott will surely offer the biggest rushing challenge to date for the Scarlet Knights  defense, a unit that is ranked 106 nationally in total defense through the first three weeks, a shut down of the Terps running game is not out of the question following a solid performance vs FIU and would certainly be another step in the right direction for a defense who entered training camp as one of the top returning units in the Big East.

September 25, 2009

Rutgers Recap
BY: Jason Nafziger

After getting blown out by Cincinnati, Rutgers beat Howard and
Florida International.
Stats so far: Rutgers ranks 70th with 3.86 yards per rush attempt and 24th
with 8.5 yards per passing attempt. Overall, they have averaged 27.7 points
and 385 yards on offense per game. Defensively, they are 53rd with 3.51
yards allowed per rush attempt and 85th with 7.4 yards allowed per pass
attempt. Overall, they have allowed 23 points and 362.7 yards per game.
Coming up: The Scarlet Knights will hope for a couple wins out of games
against Maryland, Texas Southern and Pittsburgh.

Jason Nafziger writes about Pro and College Football at
http://onfootball.wordpress.com

September 22, 2009

Where’s the Offense?
Tony Ambrosini

Something is still not right with the Rutgers football team.

There is clearly something wrong when you have a hard time moving the ball against a Florida International in what amounts to a scheduled “guarantee” game.

The only guarantee that came out of the contest is that if the offense thinks they can perform the way they did at Maryland or in Big East play, this will be a very long season.

If you remember in last week’s post, I mentioned that FIU is a program on the rise and has a budding superstar in WR T.Y. Hilton on their hands (9 catches, 80 yards, 2 TD). However, the Golden Panthers are a squad that does not have the same talent as the BCS schools.

But they did believe in themselves, and almost came back from a 23-0 fourth-quarter deficit even though they lost the turnover battle (-3).

The defense looks like they may have worked out a few kinks since the noncompetitive Cincinnati loss, but they did let up a little too easily after playing some stellar football for 3 ½ quarters.

But the main question is this…where’s the offense?    

For the entire game, Rutgers had only two drives of 10 plays or more and each resulted in a score (a touchdown and a field goal). The rest of the scoring came courtesy of FIU turnovers, resulting in excellent field position for Rutgers; one interception was taken back 38 yards for six points by MLB Ryan D’Imperio.

The bottom line is this…if you want to be able to take the next step as a program, field position gifts that are handed to you need to become touchdowns, not field goals (or blocked and missed field goals, which happened this past Saturday, too).

Some stats to digest:

Rutgers is only converting third downs at a 34.9% rate, which ranks 75th in the FBS, right near Georgia. Georgia is gets a pass, since they played Oklahoma State and two SEC foes to this point. Rutgers has faced Cincinnati, Howard, and FIU…

The Scarlet Knights’ 27.7 points per game average ranks 59th in the country; this falls right in the middle of the pack. Again, look at who Rutgers has played thus far, and you can’t be that impressed.

Maryland will be desperate for a win on Saturday, so Greg Schiano better have his guys ready to go.

Tony Ambrosini contributes to the Bleacher Report with articles and commentary on NFL and NCAA football. You can check out his profile right here for all the latest: http://bleacherreport.com/users/129820-tony-ambrosini

Tony is also an Exclusive Staff Writer for Fantasy Football Mastermind: the Definitive Fantasy Information Service. His work can be found at the listing here: http://www.ffmastermind.com/articles.php

 

September 20, 2009


Rutgers Review
By: Pete at scarletchop.blogspot.com

While it didn’t produce anything near the kind of offensive numbers we had all hoped, for 54 minutes on Saturday the Rutgers defense played lights out.   It was the kind of play that echoed back to the days of Ramel Meekins, Quintero Frierson and Devraun Thompson <http://scarletchop.blogspot.com/2009/08/deja-vous-all-over-again.html> . The days when quarterbacks were hunted like an extraterrestrial life form picking off members of an elite military team in Central America one by one.  Totaling five sacks and limiting the running game to a mere 10 yards on 20 carries the proverbial Predator had seemingly arrived to Piscataway for 54 minutes on Saturday afternoon.  



Heading into Saturday’s match up the Rutgers defense seemed anything but impressive, ranked last in the Big East and a virtual no show for the first two games against Cincinnati and Howard. During the week defensive end George Johnson vented his frustration of hearing how this veteran laden defense was "underachieving" and "not good enough." On Saturday, the Rutgers defense carried out their frustration limiting the Golden Panthers to 42 yards on 23 carries and 218 yards through the air, much of which took place in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter.   



"That’s what our plan was," the defensive end said following the Rutgers 23-15 win that was more lopsided then the score indicated. "We still got a big chip on our shoulders, though. We’re going to carry it all season, to play the way we have to."


"I thought we got better," coach Greg Schiano said. "We put pressure on the quarterback. I don’t know how many sacks we had, but it seemed like we hit him a lot. We needed to have an outing like that. In the end, we gave up 15 points, but we are getting better. And that is the key. We made some big improvements since Cincinnati. We just need to keep going in that direction."


Perhaps the convincing performance by the Rutgers defense on Saturday is a turning point of sorts for the 2009 season.  Similar to October 18th  2008 as a last second field goal dinged off the cross bar to a hushed crowd and Rutgers escaped 12-10 against the Connecticut Huskies beginning what would end up being a seven game winning streak to close the season.   Like Tom Luicci of the Star Ledger tried to get Coach Schiano to admit to so many times last year.  This defense is finally playing “winning football”.


Check Out Scarlet Chop
Rutgers Football, The Big East, Recruiting and Beyond

September 16, 2009

Scouting Report: R.U. Better Be On the Lookout for T.Y.
Tony Ambrosini

 

I don’t think there is too much need to pore over the Howard game from a recap perspective. Rutgers is clearly more talented than any of the FCS teams and had it on display when the Scarlet Knights were up 42-7 at the half on Saturday.

 

True freshman QB Tom Savage looked very comfortable in the offense, averaging over 17 yards per pass. The running game generated a 5.6 yard/carry average and the Bison had no answers for Rutgers from the beginning.

 

That’s all you need to know about that game. Final Score: Rutger 45, Howard 7

 

This upcoming Saturday, Rutgers hosts Florida International, a program that is on the rise in the Sun Belt Conference.

 

Former Miami Hurricane offensive lineman Mario Cristobal is doing a really nice job rebuilding the program after the team finished 0-12 back in 2006. He brings in the “leftover” recruits that are unwanted by the big Florida schools and turns them into very competitive football players.

 

One such unheralded player coming out of high school is receiver/return specialist T.Y. Hilton, who has amazing speed and despite measuring a generous 5’9”, 168 lbs, can break a big play at any given moment.

 

As a true freshman last year, Hilton racked up 1,013 yards on only 41 catches! He is a good kickoff returner, however his major asset on special teams is returning punts; he averaged 12.1 yards per return, good enough to be sixth in the country.

 

FIU has a pair of experienced quarterbacks (Paul McCall and Wayne Younger) who lead an offense that returns nine additional starters from 2008.

 

Hilton needs to be the focus for the Rutgers defense and special teams units as he is without a doubt the most dangerous player the Golden Panthers have. The rest of the team should not be taken lightly; ever since FIU played a tight game against #12 South Florida last season, the players are gaining more and more confidence. Last week, FIU stayed closer to #4 Alabama than most people thought, losing the game 40-14 (down only 20-14 at the half).

 

I think Savage will be able to do as he pleases against the FIU defense and the running game receives a jolt with the return of 2008’s leading rusher, Kordell Young.

 

As long as Hilton is removed from the equation often and early, this should be another “W” for Rutgers.

 

Otherwise, beware of T.Y…

 

September 10, 2009

Licking the Wounds
Tony Ambrosini

It wasn’t even close.

The thought that I would see both teams start off slow and pick it up as the game went couldn’t be further from what actually happened on the field in Piscataway of Monday.

It took about two minutes to realize that Cincinnati was just a better, well-prepared team than Rutgers in the 47-15 blowout. Bearcat QB Tony Pike led an opening nine-play, 81-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown and Cincinnati never trailed from that point on.

Yes, Rutgers had a clock-eating 20-play drive for a touchdown, but the drive was very disjointed. After that, the drive chart read like this: Punt, INT, Punt, INT, INT, Punt, and Punt. The Scarlet Knights could not move the ball against a team transitioning to a 3-4 setup with only one returning starter. Give tons of credit to Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly for getting his guys ready to go, because Rutgers clearly was not ready for this game.

Which brings me to a point I made in a previous post…this game of musical quarterbacks doesn’t work. The offense needs continuity, a chance to get into a good flow. The constant shuffling of Dom Natale and Jabu Lovelace did nothing to help. In turn, the defense was on the field way too much, though when they were out there Rutgers looked terribly undersized and overmatched against better athletes from Cincinnati. It wasn’t until true freshman QB Tom Savage came into the game that the offense started to resemble what it should, but the game was out of hand by that point.

The good part is that Rutgers has Howard, a FCS school, on deck this Saturday. Hopefully, Greg Schiano can iron out his quarterback situation in this game and register a win simultaneously.

Time to lick the wounds and get back on track…

 

 

September 5, 2009

Big Monday
Tony Ambrosini

 

At 4:00pm Eastern Time, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights officially begin their season hosting a Big East foe in the Cincinnati Bearcats right out of the gate.

Last year, the Cats won a tight defensive struggle 13-10 in a year where everything seemed to break Cincinnati’s way, while Rutgers experienced a gruesome 1-5 start before finally picking up the pieces to reel off seven straight wins.

So what does the first game of the year have in store for us? Let’s take a look.

Talent Matchups

Rutgers’ biggest strength is the offensive line, which returns all five starters from a year ago and is led by future NFL first-round draft pick, LT Anthony Davis. This unit will be more important than ever with the need to run the ball quite a bit until the new quarterback (whoever it turns out to be) gets his feet wet.

On the opposite side of the ball, Cincinnati will unveil a new 3-4 defense, where the depth chart shuffled significantly. Players recruited as quarterbacks shifted to linebacker, while a tight end moved to defensive end, and a wide receiver switched to strong safety. All of these changes are being made since the Bearcats return only one starter on defense.

Control of the line of scrimmage will be very important to the success of the Rutgers offense, but it is fair to have reservations about the quarterbacks and receivers. No one necessarily stood out in practices, so Greg Schiano may go with a combination of Dom Natale and true freshman Tom Savage, with a few special packages installed for Jabu Lovelace. D.C. Jefferson was the fourth man in the quarterback derby, but he was switched to tight end to take advantage of his athleticism (and help a thin position).

Musical Quarterbacks might have an effect on the chemistry with the receiving corps, who currently have one standout in Tim Brown. After that, true freshman Mohamed Sanu began spring as a defensive back and ascended to the top of the charts at other starting wide receiver position.  

Cincinnati however has an intelligent, tough leader in Tony Pike taking the snaps who fought through injuries to lead his team to the Big East title in 2008. With eight returning starters on offense for the Cats, an emerging Rutgers defense will be tested, especially if he makes frequent connections with superstar WR Mardy Gilyard. This is why the front four of the Knights defense needs to generate some more pressure than they did last year (they recorded only 29 sacks compared to 40 in 2007).

Overall, Rutgers has an edge in the talent an experience department, simply due to the offensive line and the inexperience and scheme change in Cincinnati’s defense.

Coaching:

Brian Kelly is the reigning two-time Big East Coach of the Year. Greg Schiano was the 2006 FWAA Coach of the Year. Both are excellent recruiters and molders of talent. However, Cincinnati’s program is trending upward; Rutgers has hit a plateau recently, so I will give Cincinnati a slight edge here.

Emotional Factors:

Last year’s game was very ugly, plain and simple; both sides will be looking to perform better. This time around, the game is on ESPN on Monday afternoon in New Jersey; Rutgers Stadium added more seating and I expect the crowd to be fired up for this one. A good start is going to be very important for Rutgers after last year’s awful beginning.

Series Trends:

Cincinnati has won three in a row against the Scarlet Knights. Back in 2006, they caught Rutgers napping after the Knights won their biggest game in school history, knocking down #3 Louisville on national TV.

Prediction:

Some kinks need to be worked out on both sidelines. My guess is that this will be close and low-scoring early on, but Rutgers offense will really start to exploit the inexperienced Bearcat defense by the second half.

Rutgers 21, Cincinnati 13

Here’s hoping…

Next time: A recap of Monday’s contest!
Tony Ambrosini contributes to the Bleacher Report with articles and commentary on NFL and NCAA football. You can check out his profile right here for all the latest: http://bleacherreport.com/users/129820-tony-ambrosini
Tony is also an Exclusive Staff Writer for Fantasy Football Mastermind: the Definitive Fantasy Information Service. His work can be found at the listing here: http://www.ffmastermind.com/articles.php

 

 

September 1, 2009

Breaking it Down: The 2009 Rutgers Schedule
Tony Ambrosini

As soon as I flip my calendar from August to September, I am filled with excitement for the upcoming football season. With last night’s low around fifty degrees here in the Philadelphia area, it felt even more like autumn.

The same excitement is in the air for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Even though we are still waiting for Greg Schiano to name his starting QB, one thing that has Rutgers fans feeling pretty good is the upcoming schedule.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the opportunity is there for Rutgers to run the table to 12-0. I am by no means saying it is a lock to happen, but the schedule created several breaks Rutgers. Let’s take a dive into this schedule and see what could be in store for the upcoming year.

Sept. 7 vs. Cincinnati (Monday)

While the Bearcats are very well-coached by Brian Kelly, their defense is returning only one starter and it is transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4. However, Tony Pike and the rest of the offense is formidable and could test the Rutgers defense to some extent. In the end, I see Rutgers avenging last year’s 13-10 loss because of the experience advantage on the offensive line and the talent on defensive unit.

Sept. 12 vs. Howard

This is an FCS opponent who finished 1-10 last year. Chalk up a “W” here.

Sept. 19 vs. Florida International

FIU is starting to build up a very competitive team…in the Sun Belt Conference. Getting the “leftovers” from the big Florida schools is not a bad thing, but Rutgers has an overall talent edge, especially since Schiano does a nice job of recruiting down in Florida himself.

Sept. 26 at Maryland

This game does not make or break the season, but these are the games Rutgers needs to win to be taken seriously. The Knights have struggled against the ACC (2-3 in the last five years, neither victory by more than six points). Last time these two met, Maryland came into Pisctaway and took down a heavily favored Rutgers team 34-24. The good news here is the Maryland’s lines are both in flux and Ralph Friedgen is trying to find the right combinations. This is another game where Rutgers’ offensive line is going to make a difference, and I see the Knights going into College Park eking out a win in their first road test.

Oct. 10 vs. Texas Southern

Two weeks to prepare for a lower-tier FCS program means another easy “W.”

Oct. 16 vs. Pittsburgh (Friday)

Rutgers gets their first Big East contest under the lights on national TV. Last year when the Knights were struggling, they went on the road to Pittsburgh and busted out with 54 points, en route to the 20-point win. This time around, Pittsburgh has its sights on the Big East title and will be seeing plenty of red when they come to New Jersey. This should be a tight contest, especially with revenge on the minds of the Panthers. I will call this one a swing game that could go either way between two of the most talented and experienced teams in the conference.

Oct. 23 at Army (Friday)

Rutgers has dominated the series, winning five in a row. Even though Army should be improved and have a sharp new head coach (Rich Ellerson), the Knights’ talent will prevail in this one.

Oct. 31 at Connecticut

Rutgers engaged in a bizarre low-scoring win that helped get Rutgers on track to peel off seven straight wins (which includes the bowl win). The Knights have gotten into some tough battles with the Huskies, and I expect it to be no different. However, the main difference between the teams is that while Rutgers may have inexperience at QB, Connecticut lacks talent at the position. The Huskies are going to give a great effort as they do every week under Randy Edsall, but the running game should take advantage of a weak front four.

Nov. 12 vs. South Florida (Thursday)

When the Bulls won nine games in 2006 (the same year Rutgers won eleven), it looked like they were ready to make a significant leap. However, the program seems to have reached a plateau; the Papajohns.com and St. Petersburg Bowls don’t cut it anymore (similar to Rutgers). With South Florida and Rutgers both eyeing bigger and better things, I expect this nationally televised game to be very close and could go either way.

Nov. 21 at Syracuse

New Orange Head Coach Doug Marrone is looking to wage a recruiting war with Rutgers, but right now he doesn’t have enough horses to go toe-to-toe at this point. However, Syracuse does have NFL-caliber talent (DT Arthur Jones and WR Mike Williams) and can only improve on the Greg Robinson era. With the Knights coming off of a big TV game, they might be a little flat in the Carrier Dome. I still think Rutgers wins this one, but it may not be as convincing as it should be.

Nov. 27 at Louisville (Friday)

A second straight conference road game against a talented team that could be desperate for a win to attain bowl eligibility may spell trouble for Rutgers. Louisville has some very good players and I believe their talent and experience combination is on par with Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and Rutgers. Rutgers could be feeling the pressure of potentially being unbeaten at this point, and that they ran up 63 points on the Cardinals last year in New Jersey (serious emotion on the side of the Cardinals). I feel like these are strong factors that will possibly lead to an upset.

Dec. 5 vs. West Virginia

The Knights have not done well against West Virginia in recent years, but the Mountaineers do not have Pat White anymore. Still, this is a very talented and formidable opponent, and I am going to call this one a swing game that either team could win.

So where does that leave us after running down the schedule?  Obviously things could change as the season moves forward, but I do feel like every game is winnable. However, there are easily four losses in the schedule if the Knights show up unfocused or unprepared. If the truth lies in the middle, then I see Rutgers winning ten games, which should be good enough for the Big East crown and a trip to a BCS bowl game.

The season is upon us; to the Rutgers fans (and opponents) out there, I wish us all the best of luck this year!

Next Time: Kickoff is this Monday! An in-depth preview of the Cincinnati game looms as well as some player updates and positional battles.
Tony Ambrosini contributes to the Bleacher Report with articles and commentary on NFL and NCAA football. You can check out his profile right here for all the latest: http://bleacherreport.com/users/129820-tony-ambrosini
Tony is also an Exclusive Staff Writer for Fantasy Football Mastermind: the Definitive Fantasy Information Service. His work can be found at the listing here: http://www.ffmastermind.com/articles.php

 

August 24, 2009

What’s up with the Quarterbacks?
Tony Ambrosini

I know I promised a schedule breakdown, but that will come later this week. This subject is going to take precedence, because honestly it is important.

Not long ago, it was believed that Head Coach Greg Schiano decided to go with Dom Natale at quarterback. Now it seems that highly-touted Freshman QB Tom Savage is making a serious bid to start in the opener against Cincinnati. Apparently, the recent performances by each player in the second scrimmage caused yet another shakeup at the position.

So, what is going on with the situation under center? Is this for real, or is Schiano trying to smokescreen the Bearcats in their preparations for the opener?

Natale was only 5-15 with two INTs in the scrimmage. Savage only posted 3-9 for 16 yards, but it was his maturity and command of the huddle that really impressed the coaching staff. Mainstay QB Jabu Lovelace is going to be used in special packages that take advantage of his running ability.

Personally, I think Schiano needs to settle on someone and let him build continuity with the first team on the offensive depth chart. We are two weeks away from the nationally-televised game at home against an inexperienced (on defense), but well-coached Cincinnati team. The more reps the starter can get in practice, the better-off the team will be in the long-run.

With a running game that seems to be getting more impressive and dominating by the day and a defense that could match the numbers posted by the 2006 squad, Rutgers merely needs a quarterback who will keep mistakes to a minimum. If Schiano hasn’t made his decision in the next couple of days, then it would worry me that the Knights are going to be too weak at quarterback to be a big-time player in the chase for a BCS bowl game.

Of course, Schiano may already have his answer and the Bearcats won’t know until September 7th…

 

August 17, 2009

1976…and Beyond
Tony Ambrosini

Prior to Greg Schiano’s arrival in New Brunswick, the Rutgers football program was listless. The Terry Shea and Doug Graber years were rather forgettable, considering that the Scarlet Knights were not only competitive, but pretty darn good throughout the 1970’s. However, in the twenty seasons prior the Schiano becoming the head coach, Rutgers had a winning percentage of 0.375, basically an average season of 4-7.

While the program seems to have turned around over the last four seasons, with the Knights making it to a bowl game in each one, the bar has been set. Eight wins is the minimum number of wins the fan base is going to expect, but now they are going to want to see more.

Flash back to the 1976 season. Rutgers peeled off an unbeaten 11-0 season, only the second unbeaten season in modern school history (the other in 1961). The Knights were invited to participate in the Independence Bowl against McNeese State, but Rutgers declined feeling that they deserved better than that after running the table.

(With so much money at stake these days, you will never see a team decline any bowl invitation).

Since the rejection, Rutgers has not found that kind of success. Even after the amazing run in 2006 (considered to be one of the most successful seasons in school history), where they knocked off (at the time) #3 Louisville, Rutgers still only ended up in the Texas Bowl against Kansas State. Louisville, meanwhile, still earned a trip to the Orange Bowl that season.

So as we embark on the 2009 season, we are about to see Rutgers catch quite a break when it comes to their schedule. This year, the Knights scheduled three (Howard, FIU, and Texas Southern), maybe four (if we include an improved Army team on the road) “guarantee” games out-of-conference. That means if they split the remainder of their schedule (at Maryland and the Big East schedule), we are looking at a seven or eight-win season, which means a plateau in the program and frankly an unacceptable season.

Is it unreasonable to expect a perfect 12-0 season? Not necessarily. After all, they catch the upper-tier teams (Pittsburgh, West Virginia, USF, and a depleted Cincinnati) all at home, while they travel to the lower-tier teams (Syracuse, Louisville, and Connecticut). Add in a revenge game at Maryland, a team not as good as 2008’s version, and you have the perfect setup for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights to go unbeaten…just like they did in 1976.

Bigger and better bowl games could be on the horizon. That is, if Schiano and company take advantage of the breaks…

Next time: a breakdown of the schedule

Tony Ambrosini contributes to the Bleacher Report with articles and commentary on NFL and NCAA football. You can check out his profile right here for all the latest: http://bleacherreport.com/users/129820-tony-ambrosini
Tony is also an Exclusive Staff Writer for Fantasy Football Mastermind: the Definitive Fantasy Information Service. His work can be found at the listing here: http://www.ffmastermind.com/articles.php

 

 

August 10, 2009

Scarlet Fever
Tony Ambrosini

Hello and welcome to Scarlet Fever, your source of information, analysis, and opinion on everything involving Rutgers Football here at PhilSteele.com. It is a great honor to be able to contribute to an outstanding football publication that I have been reading for the last five seasons.

Let’s jump right into it and look at some of the interesting position battles:

  1. The quest to be the guy that follows the school’s all-time leading passer, Mike Teel, is certainly interesting. However, Domenic Natale, the former Michigan State commit, showed in spring ball that he could at least look competent enough to guide the offense. rFR DC Jefferson looks even bigger than the 6’6” 240 he is listed and is very tough to bring down, but he is still raw as a passer. Jabu Lovelace has been a mainstay in New Brunswick, but has not done anything to necessarily distinguish himself from the pack. While highly touted freshman QB Tom Savage is expected to be the main guy down the road, he will very likely be held back to watch and learn from the sideline in 2009.
  2. At running back, both Kordell Young and Jourdan Brooks had knee issues to deal with this offseason, but Brooks should be able to take the field when fall camp opens. We will have to wait and see how Young’s rehab is going. Joe Martinek made the most of his opportunities in the spring game, showing that he is more than capable of claiming the lead RB spot. Is it possible that Greg Schiano employs a committee system to take the pressure off of his new starting QB? Absolutely, but it is not a foregone conclusion.
  3. Rutgers lost two receivers to the NFL, but Tim Brown does return. As far as the other starting receiver, it has gotten to the point where the team worked out DB Mohamed Sanu at receiver and has done well; despite the fact he has also looked really good at safety. Regardless of who claims this spot among Sanu, rFR Tim Wright, and others, the stellar offensive line should be able to provide enough time for the quarterback to find open receivers. Hopefully, those kinks are worked out during a rather weak non-conference schedule.
  4. The defense is solid in the back seven and on the ends (especially now that DE Alex Silvestro has moved to his more natural position, away from defensive tackle). However, the defensive tackles still lack bulk, which means they will need to rely on their quickness to penetrate the backfield. As for as who those guys will be, the jury is out as Charlie Noonan, Blair Bines, Eric LeGrand, and Scott Vallone all challenge for playing time on the interior.

 

One area we won’t see any real battles will be on the offensive line, led by likely 2010 first-round draft pick LT Anthony Davis. This unit returns intact, and should help the quarterback and other skill players improve as they go through the season.

Rutgers camp begins this week; it will be the first step toward 1976. What do I mean by that? You will see in my next post later this week.

 

Tony Ambrosini contributes to the Bleacher Report with articles and commentary on NFL and NCAA football. You can check out his profile right here for all the latest: http://bleacherreport.com/users/129820-tony-ambrosini

Tony is also an Exclusive Staff Writer for Fantasy Football Mastermind: the Definitive Fantasy Information Service. His work can be found at the listing here: http://www.ffmastermind.com/articles.php