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Can Rutgers take advantage of enough breaks that come their way this season?



Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

On the eve of Big Ten Football Media Days, it was reported that Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh could be suspended by the NCAA for the first four games of the 2023 season. The reason is related to Level 1 violations during the 2020 recruiting dead period. If the suspension does occur, Rutgers would play the Wolverines in the Big House in late September without Harbaugh on the sidelines.

I am not suggesting that this type of situation makes Michigan vulnerable enough to lose to Rutgers. After making the college football playoffs two seasons in a row, the Wolverines are among the schools projected to get there once again as the clear favorite to win the Big Ten Championship. However, it did make me think about the outlook for the Scarlet Knights in 2023.

Rutgers was picked to finish in sixth place in the Big Ten East in Tuesday’s unofficial media preseason poll led by That’s not surprising as RU received more votes than only Indiana, who they’ve beaten two years in a row.

Obviously, the odds are against Rutgers from taking a significant step forward up the Big Ten standings this season. However, the Scarlet Knights could still have a successful season and outperform modest expectations if certain things break their way.

Of course, the offense must be improved. Quarterback play, a consistent run game and a steady defense are all important factors to winning at least six games this season.

That being said, the season opener against Northwestern went from a game Rutgers would be a slight favorite in to now a solid favorite after that program is in a full blown hazing scandal. Pat Fitzgerald was fired, lawsuits continue to pile up and the entire athletic department is embroiled in a crisis after several other programs are now dealing with allegations. It’s a must win game for Rutgers against a team who might not have a full roster or full coaching staff by the time they arrive to Piscataway on September 3. Starting safety Jeremiah Lewis just entered the transfer portal on Tuesday. More will likely follow.

While some longtime Rutgers fans look at this scenario as a potential danger zone, if the program is headed in the right direction entering Greg Schiano’s fourth season, it’s a game they are very capable to win.

Getting lucky breaks and taking advantage of those are two different things. A team that has a strong culture with strong leadership can put themselves in a position to capitalize on unexpected opportunities.

Based on the preseason poll, Rutgers is expected to be better than both Indiana and Northwestern. Can RU win both matchups? Are they able to take advantage of three non-conference home games against Temple, Virginia Tech and Wagner? Those are all winnable, but can the Scarlet Knights do enough to actually win them all?

When Michigan State visits in mid-October for Homecoming at SHI Stadium, what state will Mel Tucker’s team be in? They will be coming off of a bye, but it comes after a three game stretch against Washington, Maryland and Iowa. Rutgers has been competitive against MSU in Schiano’s return and this game is certainly one fans have to hope they could win.

Will Iowa’s offense be much improved or will the Ferentz’s be fending off the fan base and media by early November when the Scarlet Knights arrive at Kinnick Stadium? Will Maryland be healthy in the regular season finale and getting stronger like last season, or be completely injury riddled like they were against RU two seasons ago?

There is a lot that can happen between now and Thanksgiving weekend. Will enough positive things happen Rutgers, both generated by their own play and breaks along the way that can get them to six or more wins?

Listen and watch this episode of The Scarlet Faithful podcast to hear more.



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  1. Henry Rutgers

    July 26, 2023 at 6:52 am

    I love your optimism. I also share it. Just a couple of breaks will make the season. I won’t call them lucky breaks because I am a firm believer that preparation is the key to making your own luck. I think you’re thinking the same way many of your online followers are thinking. We can win five and steal one somehow, someway and we’re bowl bound.

    • thevinman

      July 26, 2023 at 11:51 am

      Obviously QB play will go a long way to determining if we can “steal” a bowl bid.

  2. thevinman

    July 26, 2023 at 11:47 am

    I wonder if any Northwestern players that could help us will have interest in Rutgers.

  3. BataliBoli98

    July 26, 2023 at 3:47 pm

    I think that so much of it will come down to the D being able to force turnovers and Wimsatt being able to be a legit two way threat. I am not expecting him to be great but serviceable and able to move the chains. Can he make opponents at least respect the pass so that running lanes can open up and they don’t just stack the box? Aaron, does the rule where the clock does not stop on every third down go into effect this season? If so, that could help IF RU can move the ball on the ground. I can’t believe that the season is nearly a month away. Go RU!

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