Ash Era Countdown: Big Games in 2016

The Ash Era countdown series enters its final week with a look at the most-anticipated big games in 2016. From Chris Ash's formal Rutgers debut to a primetime clash with a recruiting rival, Scarlet Report breaks it down.

Date Opponent / Event Location Time / Result
09/03/16 at Washington TV Seattle, Wash. 2:00 p.m. ET
09/10/16 vs. Howard TV High Point Solutions Stadium 12:00 p.m. ET
09/17/16 vs. New Mexico TV High Point Solutions Stadium 12:00 p.m. ET
09/24/16 vs. Iowa High Point Solutions Stadium TBA
10/01/16 at Ohio State Columbus, Ohio 12:00 p.m. ET
10/08/16 vs. Michigan TV High Point Solutions Stadium 7 or 8 p.m. ET
10/15/16 vs. Illinois High Point Solutions Stadium 12:00 p.m. ET
10/22/16 at Minnesota Minneapolis, Minn. 12:00 p.m. ET
11/05/16 vs. Indiana High Point Solutions Stadium TBA
11/12/16 at Michigan State East Lansing, Mich. TBA
11/19/16 vs. Penn State TV High Point Solutions Stadium 8:00 p.m. ET
11/26/16 at Maryland College Park, Md. TBA

5. Sept. 10, Howard – No, seriously. Howard at Rutgers is a top five storyline game for coach Chris Ash. Think about it – Ash's first real appearance in front of the general Rutgers fan base. The “Ash plan” revolutionized plenty already but can he break the curse of the late-arriving student? This is the first time the average Rutgers fan sees a no-huddle, spread offense in person after so many years of the pro style. For Rutgers to take the next step, every Saturday needs to be an event – even the “gimme game.” Howard could also be fans' first look at players like Zach Allen and Trey Sneed as well as Darius Hamilton's return to High Point Solutions Stadium.

4. Nov. 26 at Maryland – Whether it's Ralph Friedgen's revenge or the final day of service for Team Julie Hermann and Kyle Flood, this battle of Big Ten newcomers always brings buzz. Maryland and Rutgers administrators followed similar paths during offseason coaching searches but after both selected top Big Ten assistants, Ash and D.J. Durkin approached the process differently. Ash assembled a group of young, hungry assistants that fit his system while Durkin targeted an all-star team of former head coaches like Mike London and Pete Lembo. Both programs have top 25 recruiting classes as of July, and the first head-to-head game means a shot at real bragging rights in the “which hire was better” argument.

3. Nov. 19, Penn State – Penn State returns to Rutgers for the first time since its 13-10 comeback victory over the Scarlet Knights. While the hot antagonist for Rutgers fans wears Maize and Blue in 2016, the Nittany Lions and coach James Franklin remain a benchmark for the Scarlet Knights. Whether it is a one-time top PSU target Chris Muller in his final home game or a marquee role for former Rutgers commit Saquon Barkley in the Penn State backfield, there are plenty of reasons to tune in regardless of bowl implications.

2. Sept. 3, at Washington – Finally, the Ash Era arrives. Rutgers may be massive underdogs on the road against a potential top-25 team, but this debut is can't-miss television. No more “vanilla” play-calling and, with the increased fundraising activity on the west coast, a great opportunity for the alumni base.

1. Oct. 8, Michigan – After embarrassing losses on both sides prompted coaching changes, Ash vs. Harbaugh brings fun long-term potential. Rutgers is an underdog in October but few gave the Scarlet Knights a chance leading into their last Piscataway meeting either. A season's worth of storylines await kickoff on primetime television. Jabrill Peppers leads a roster packed with New Jersey players into his home state. Michigan assistant Chris Partridge coaches his first game in New Jersey since he left Paramus Catholic. Graduate transfer Ross Taylor-Douglas likely starts at cornerback for Rutgers against his former team. … And training camp hasn't even started yet.

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