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Syracuse football 2020 opponent preview: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Someone’s going to tell you this series mattered once. They’d be incorrect.

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Michigan Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Sure, there’s a chance that the 2020 college football season doesn’t start on time — or at all. But until we hear otherwise, it’s worth continuing with business as usual.

Last week, we talked about the Syracuse Orange’s season-opening matchup at Boston College. For week two, SU’s still on the road, against yet another former Big East foe: the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. In another scheduling misadventure, Syracuse had originally had Wisconsin in this slot before the Badgers scheduled over us with Notre Dame. Thankfully, Rutgers was there to add a winnable non-conference game instead. Of course, Greg Schiano’s also back with the Scarlet Knights — though even if he can restore the program to some level of success, it seems like a stretch that’ll come right away.

If you think it’s a little early to be talking about upcoming opponents, you’re probably right. Whether we’re coming off a five-win season or a 10-win season, though, I’m personally excited to see what 2020 turns into for the Orange. And since I run this place, we’re already diving into the coming year’s opponents. Next up:

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

School: Rutgers

Mascot: Scarlet Knights

#BRAND Slogan(s): #CHOP or #AllIn

Alternate #BRAND Slogan Suggestions: #CabsAreHere OR #ReusingSlogansBecauseTheKidsWontRealizeItsAlmost10YearsLater

Recommended Blog: On the Banks

Conference: Big Ten

Seton Hall v Rutgers Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Coach: Greg Schiano, first (12th) year. After 11 years trying to make Rutgers a respectable football program — and even succeeding in doing so, to some extent — Greg tired of teaching boys and wanted to mold the minds of MEN (TM). He took over the NFL’s Tamp Bay Buccaneers and failed spectacularly, going 11-21 in two seasons. From there, Schiano was the defensive coordinator at Ohio State for three seasons and was a key part of those successful Buckeyes teams.

While at OSU, he was going to be the next Tennessee Volunteers coach before fans got pissed and also were concerned about his involvement in the Penn State sexual abuse case while he was there from 1990-95. Schiano was also the New England Patriots’ defensive coordinator for a month in 2019, before he resigned to spend time with his family.

2019 Record: (2-10) (0-9)

Recapping Last Season:

Oh boy, what a magical year. Chris Ash (one-time potential Orange target back in 2015, so we dodged a bullet there) was fired after four games after Rutgers went 1-3 while getting outscored 112-74... and 112-16 against P5 teams. The rest of the season under Nunzio Campanile (a Rutgers coach if I’ve ever heard one) didn’t go much better. SUNJ was 1-7 over the final eight games, with the only win over Liberty. The Scarlet Knights were shut out four different times during the season, and scored in single digits seven different times.

Akron was the only offense in the country worse than Rutgers, which is pretty amazing. SUNJ averaged just 273 yards per game and averaged just 13.3 points per game (also second-to-last in college football), while scoring just 6.7 points per game against P5 competition — worst by far of any P5 school. No Scarlet Knights passer threw for more than 900 yards, and the team averaged just 3.51 yards per game on the ground. Though running back Isaih Pacheco didn’t look half bad amassing 729 rushing yards on 169 carries (4.31 yards per) to go with seven scores.

Things were not great on defense, even if they weren’t as miserable as the offensive performance. Rutgers was 98th in yards allowed per game (433 per), but 123rd in points per game allowed (36.7). They forced just 10 turnovers all season, and tallied just 18 sacks. Without an offense to score with opposing teams, it was a tough ask to expect this defense to keep them in games. Think a worse version of the Scott Shafer Orange teams.

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Michigan Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

2020 Season Outlook:

Schiano’s back to chopping wood and all, and did manage to keep some potential transfers in the door while putting together a top-65 class for 2020 (it’s not much, but it’s a start). That group leaned pretty heavily on New Jersey players, as one would’ve expected given how Schiano operated last time out. No matter how good they are, they’ll have their hands full with the Big Ten schedule — especially closing with Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State in consecutive weeks.

Last year’s leading passer Johnny Langan is back, as is potential starter Arthur Sitkowski (who Schiano convinced to come back from the transfer portal). Rutgers has numerous other QB options, though, so we’ll see if the experienced options hold. At running back, 2019’s top three all return, and the Knights bring back two of the top three receiving options (losing running back Raheem Blackshear). The O-line’s fairly experienced too, though wasn’t necessarily all that successful last year.

On defense, it’s a pretty veteran group up front though they do have to replace last year’s tackles-for-loss leader Willington Previlon (7.5 TFLs) — but the next nine players on the list are all back, and they’ll add UCF transfer Malik Barrow as well. Rutgers’s secondary is on the younger side, and unfortunately some of those options are carryovers from last year’s struggling group. There’s a chance they get better with a new scheme and staff. But that also requires them to be on campus to learn (not currently the case).

Syracuse Game Date: Saturday, September 12

Location: SHI Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.

Odds of Orange Victory: 70 percent

Very Early Outlook vs. Syracuse:

There are a lot of players returning for Rutgers, so maybe the odds above seem a bit high. However, those players didn’t find much success last year — and as mentioned, they won’t really have the requisite time to implement the big changes (if the season starts on time). Maybe later in the season, I’d buy into Schiano’s potential to pick this team up off the floor of the Big Ten. But in week two, Syracuse should be a bit more of a cohesive group and a bit better prepared to take home a victory. On the offensive side alone, I think SU has enough. Hopefully I don’t look stupid for thinking so for the second straight year (hi, Maryland).