Predicting an entire season's worth of results is no easy task – any genius can get it completely wrong and any fool can get it all right. In the end, it's all for the goof anyway…
Game by game, we'll take a cursory glance at what the Scarlet Knights have facing them this year. Will it be any different compared to results of previous years? A glimpse at Rutgers 2002 record would seem to indicate this past season as just another in the string of disastrous campaigns for yet another embattled and clearly undermanned Rutgers Head Coach.
We need delve only slightly deeper into the numbers to find out a few things. In 2002, though Rutgers won 1 game less than in 2001, the numbers indicate the team was vastly improved. In 2001, Rutgers was outscored 138-32 (total points) after the first quarter (on average, Rutgers was trailing 12.5 to 2.9 after 1QTR of play) compared to 67-55 in 2002 (a 5.6 to 4.6 deficit). In 2001, the Scarlet Knights were outscored, on average, in the second QTR, by 10.1 to 3.8; in 2002 the Scarlet Knights were outscored, on average, by 8.25 to 3.9. The difference between the 2 years is stark – 16 point first half deficits in 2001,turned into a (less than) 6 point deficit by 2002. Critics may laugh, but truth be told, everyone starts somewhere.
The addition of another solid recruiting class has added valuable depth to several key positions; this will serve to keep Rutgers competitive longer and will enable them to pull out a few games that were lost late last year.
Buffalo at Rutgers – Saturday August 30th
UB senior signal-caller Randall Secky remembers the pounding his team gave the Scarlet Knights last year – and he'll make sure the rest of his teammates remember it also. The game will be tight and sloppy throughout the first half, without either team separating itself. There will be no ESPN highlight films from a bogged down, relatively close game, as one team fears embarrassment and another tries to relive the past.
Prediction: Rutgers 20 – Buffalo 6
Rutgers at Michigan State – Saturday September 6th
Despite Smoker reinstated as Spartan QB and MSU coming off a (likely) Week 1 win, this contest has all the makings of an early season upset special. The key to this contest is how well the Rutgers offense attacks the MSU secondary, needing to stay away from an experienced and rugged defensive line. And the key to the previous is how the "Jersey Barrier" protects Rutgers QB Ryan Hart.
Prediction: Rutgers 10 – Michigan St. 20
Rutgers at Army – Saturday September 13th
The Black Knights return only 3 starters on offense – that could be good news since Army ranked last in C-USA in total offense and scoring offense. Todd Berry is in his 4th year as Army head coach and many believe this to be the year that Army football comes back to the limelight. Rutgers defense shuts down an overmatched Cadet offense and pulls away from a closely contested first-half denying Army their first win of the season.
Prediction: Rutgers 27 – Army 7
Navy at Rutgers – Saturday September 27th
A smaller and slower Navy team that ended 2002 on a high note, including a near upset of Notre Dame, may not serve as the pushover Rutgers fans expect. If given a chance, talented Navy QB Craig Candeto and the dangerous option will keep the Middies in the game. The key to this game is for Rutgers to jump all over Navy early and often. After a 7-all 1st quarter Rutgers offense erupts, much to the delight of the home crowd.
Prediction: Rutgers 37 – Navy 13
Virginia Tech at Rutgers – October 4th
The newly high-octane Hokie offense is put to the test against the newly stingy Rutgers defense. However, the main question here remains what it has always been: can the Rutgers offense move the ball against Va. Tech? If last year's late-season Hokie meltdown was any indication…then, yes, you may pinch me!
Prediction: Rutgers 24 – Virginia Tech 21
Rutgers at West Virginia – October 11th
There has been no team, University of Miami included, that has owned Rutgers as much as the Mountaineers have. Unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, as WVU tries to make its own way up the BE ladder, this game is no different.
Prediction: Rutgers 7 – West Virginia 36
Pittsburgh at Rutgers – October 18th
It took until year 7 for Walt Harris' squad and the word BCS to be partners in the same sentence. With help from All-World WR Larry Fitzgerald, All-America candidate Claude Harriott and a premier Big East QB in Rod Rutherford, this is not the type of team to look past Rutgers, home or away. Much like last year, a methodical game turns the Panthers way, late.
Prediction: Rutgers 13 – Pittsburgh 24
Rutgers at Temple – October 25th
Needing to replace all but 1 of last year's starters on the offensive line, Temple will look to have its impressive influx of JUCO kids gel, and gel quickly. Exactly how quickly that happens will determine how good this team can be.
Prediction: Rutgers 20 – Temple 16
Rutgers at Connecticut – November 8th
Boasting an offense that returns 7 starters and a defense returning 8, the Huskies continue their push into the Big East. A match-up of strong offense (UCONN) versus strong defense (Rutgers) turns this game into an exciting match that concludes only when a 55 yard field goal by Michael Cortese, as time winds down, breezes through the uprights, with plenty to spare.
Prediction: Rutgers 16 – Connecticut 13
Boston College at Rutgers – November 15th
Doesn't it seem like every year that Rutgers is to surpass BC – and we know what usually happens? With a new QB at the helm, behind a revamped offensive line, there appear to be more questions than answers for the Eagles. Though BC appears ripe for the taking the Knights lose this one late.
Prediction: Rutgers 20 – Boston College 31
Rutgers at Miami – November 22nd
A loss of their number 1 ranking. Trailing 3 teams, all year, when entering quarter number 4. Coker will remind them of all that… But Rutgers is not willing to be pushed around any longer. A familiar outcome, but a hard fought battle won late in the 3rd quarter continues to raise eyebrows.
Prediction: Rutgers 14 – Miami 37
Syracuse at Rutgers – November 29th
Already Bowl eligible, the Scarlet Knights play in front of their first sellout at Rutgers stadium in 2003. They don't disappoint, as all the stars shine in this last home game.
Prediction: Rutgers 28 – Syracuse 13
The eternal optimist? Perhaps…at 7-5 (3-4) I must seem more like insane than eternal optimist. It's the beauty of college football: before the season starts, everyone has a chance to dream.
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