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2018

Rutgers

College Football

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Rutgers managed three conference wins last season, which was a major improvement considering that number was usually zero or one. In Chris Ash’s third season in charge, the Scarlet Knights are looking to make another jump and that means reaching a bowl game. It’ll be difficult for Rutgers fans to get hopes up with a lot of unknowns, but Ash brought in John McNulty as the new offensive coordinator to run a pro-style attack. McNulty has had various stints in the NFL since serving as the Rutgers coordinator back in 2007-08. Still, the Knights are expected to finish in the basement of the Big Ten East with huge odds (at 5Dimes Sportsbook).

The hope starts with the quarterback hype train and freshman Artur Sitkowski, who is all but locked into the starting spot over Giovanni Rescigno. Sitkowski made a few mistakes in the spring game, but his big arm was on display and has something the guys couldn't do a year ago. Receiver has rarely been a strong suit for this team, but there’s a bit more experience this season with Bo Melton the speedster and tight ends Nakia Griffin-Stewart and Travis Vokolek expected to play huge roles in this offense. The line didn’t lose many players of relevance and should be a notch better. They had to replace their top guys at running back, but bringing in Boston College transfer Jon Hilliman should help a bunch even though he hasn’t averaged more than four yards per carry since his freshman season. Hilliman will likely split time with some younger guys in the backfield.

But while the offense has to improve after last season’s 263 yards per game (2nd worst in country), the defense will have a hard time bettering its 28.3 points per game allowed. Outside of some late blowouts, the Rutgers defense was respectable at times holding numerous offenses in check like that of Purdue and Maryland. Ash has focused on getting stronger up front so there is hope the run defense improves against the top teams. Julius Turner is set to make a mark at nose guard with Kevin Wilkins expected to lead the way on the edges after 2.5 TFL and an interception in the spring game. The return of linebacker Tyreek Maddox-Williams should be a boost in the middle to go with a couple three-year starters. Their secondary is also loaded with experience from four-year starter Isaiah Wharton to safety Saquan Hampton, who could be one of the better ones in the Big Ten.

All of that is nice, but this is Rutgers football and there will be plenty of doubts surrounding this team until it can win consistently. To have a chance at a bowl game, the Scarlet Knights need to win all of their non-conference games, especially the trip to Kansas. Remember, nothing comes easy for this team, even a game against Kansas. If they can do that, home tilts against Indiana, Illinois and Northwestern could line up for another three-win conference campaign at a minimum. The problem is that Rutgers probably won’t be able to win any more games other than the trip to Maryland. That being the case, seven wins is the max for this team, which means they’ll be closer to four or five again.

 

2018 Rutgers Scarlet Knights Football Schedule

Sept. 1 vs. Texas State

Sept. 8 at Ohio State

Sept. 15 at Kansas

Sept. 22 vs. Buffalo

Sept. 29 vs. Indiana

Oct. 6 vs. Illinois

Oct. 13 at Maryland

Oct. 20 vs. Northwestern

Nov. 3 at Wisconsin

Nov. 10 vs. Michigan

Nov. 17 vs. Penn State

Nov. 24 at Michigan State

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