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Four Predictions for Rutgers vs. Northwestern



Captain Mayan Ahanotu should help lead a standout performance from the defensive line. Photo credit Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday at high noon, Rutgers football will be back and on the national stage against Northwestern in a Big Ten battle to open the season. Here are four things that we predict will happen on Sunday.

Rutgers will run it over 65% of play calls

Offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca ran a run heavy offense in Minnesota last season in part because he had a tremendous running back in Mohamed Ibrahim. His starting quarterback, Tanner Morgan, also suffered an injury. When he faced Northwestern in mid-November 2022, Ciarrocca’s offense ran it 58 times out of 71 plays from the line of scrimmage. That’s a whopping 81.7%. Now it was cold weather and a freshman QB was making just his second start. However, Northwestern was brutal against the run last season. It makes sense for Ciarrocca to look to run it down their throats on Sunday with a strong running back rotation. The Wildcats are a new look defensive line without a lot of experience. With a ton of pressure on Gavin Wimsatt, establishing and relying on the run game make sense.

Shawn Bowman will score a touchdown

I have high expectations for the Maine transfer and the impact he can have for Rutgers this season. He has the size and physicality that can translate to the Big Ten. Quarterback Gavin Wimsatt needs a reliable target up the middle and Bowman seems tailor made to be that option. While I said Rutgers should be run heavy, that should also open up some lanes for Bowman to exploit and think he’s the most likely candidate to catch a touchdown from Wimsatt in the opener.

The defensive line will make us believers

I really believe it’s the defensive line that needs to set the tone and provide a spark for Rutgers in this game. Northwestern is replacing four primary starters along the offensive line from last season. The Scarlet Knights need to generate pressure on likely starting quarterback Ben Bryant, who thrives throwing out of the pocket when he has time. Marquise Watson’s unit also needs to prevent big gains on the ground from Cam Porter. Being disruptive, being the catalyst for third and longs and making Bryant work under pressure are all keys to the defense delivering a strong performance. I think the depth of the defensive line, especially on the edge, will be a major bright spot for Rutgers on Sunday.

The Final Score

Of course I’m nervous of the outcome because I’ve been a fan of Rutgers football for four decades. This game will played under the national spotlight and against a team that was 1-11 last season while losing their head coach in the preseason. On paper, RU should win this game without a fraction of doubt. However, I do expect some uneasy moments at times on Sunday. It’s a Big Ten matchup right out of the gate and Rutgers is unproven with many questions all over the roster.

That being said, with a run heavy offense that should be effective enough and what I believe will be an inspired defensive effort, I’m predicting Rutgers to beat Northwestern 20-14. 

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