Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano’s press conference on Big Ten Football Media Days took place on Wednesday. While Schiano addressed several topics, one of particular note was playing Northwestern for the season opener.
The Wildcats are still reeling from the fallout of the hazing scandal that ultimately cost the longest tenured Big Ten head coach Pat Fitzgerald his job. Of course, having to play the Wildcats in the first game does add some unpredictability following the coaching change.
Schiano was asked how his preparation for Northwestern would change now that David Braun has been named interim head coach.
“That’s a good question. I don’t think as much maybe as if it was a total overhaul,” Schiano explained. “Mike Bajakian is the (offensive) coordinator there, he’s been there. I think that’s going to remain similar. Defensively, they didn’t bring (Braun) in to be the defensive coordinator and run someone else’s defense, so now he’s the head coach as well. So I think we’re going to get what we’re studying and getting prepared for.”
Braun was previously the defensive coordinator at FCS power North Dakota State. In his four seasons with the Bison, the program won two national titles and had the No. 1 scoring defense in FCS twice.
Even though Rutgers can study Braun’s defense at North Dakota State, the personnel at Northwestern could be different for September 3rd than it is even right now. With lawsuits and allegations growing from former players, current players could enter the transfer portal before the season even begins. On Tuesday, projected starting safety Jeremiah Lewis entered the transfer portal. There will likely be more players that ultimately leave amidst the hazing scandal.
Schiano did make a point that whatever Northwestern is going through, it will not impact how Rutgers prepares for their matchup.
“The biggest thing in my career is make sure your own team is ready. That’s our challenge,” Schiano stated. “I need to make sure that Rutgers is ready on the 3rd because I know that Northwestern is going to show up, and we need to make sure that we do.”
If Rutgers wants to make significant progress this season, beating Northwestern to open the 2023 campaign is a must. With many key contributors returning and now having Gavin Wimsatt anointed the starting quarterback, Schiano’s team is in a good position to maximize it’s developmental time during training camp. With its opponent in full blown crisis mode already coming off an 1-11 season, it is a prime opportunity to start the season off with a Big Ten victory. Schiano is absolutely correct in that Rutgers controls its destiny in this situation and that should be the ultimate focus ahead of the September 3 opener against Northwestern.
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