An alternative perspective on Rutgers Football and its addition to the Big Ten!

NJ_BUCKEYE's picture
January 31, 2013 at 9:38p

Due to the recent addition of my alma mater to the Big Ten, and since I am a life long Ohio State fan, I thought I would share my knowledge of Rutgers, and some personal views on its football program.  Hopfully this will enlighten some B1G fans unfamiliar with Rutgers.  Even better would be if I could help change some people's perceptions of one of the Big Ten's newest members, and at the very least offer you something you may not know about Rutgers University.



As long as I can remember I have been an Ohio State fan, and that is mostly due to my mom growing up in Ohio and my dad attending OSU.  I am still a die hard OSU fan, but I also am now an adult and have now lived in New Jersey for 20 years.  I graduated from Rutgers in 2011, and I am pretty well versed on their football program and everything that goes along with its tradition as the birth place of college football.  In case you are not familiar with college football history, I will explain the 'birth place' reference.  Princeton and Rutgers played the first intercollegiate football game in 1869 when the country was still recovering from the civil war and Princeton was stilled known as the College of New Jersey.  Now I will try not to bore any of you with more fun facts you can find on Wikipedia.  Ultimately college football has become a question of, 'what have you done for me lately?'.  Thus I will try to avoid boring you with anymore history lessons about Rutgers.  I just wanted to point out that Rutgers offers the Big Ten another feather to add to its cap with a history already full of rich football tradition.

2012-2013 Season:

Currently Rutgers is coming off a Big East title and a 9-3 regular season that began 7-0 with a win over an SEC team in Arkansas (that win looked a lot better in the early weeks of the 2012 season).  Their season changed once they lost to a stubborn Kent State team which ended their rapid clime up the college football polls.  They still managed to finish the season with a Big East conference championship.  However, it was a season that finished on a low note with losses over Pitt and Louisville, which forced them to share their Big East title with Cincinnati and Louisville.

2013 Russell Athletic Bowl:

Due to the disappointing loss to Louisville in their final game of the season, Rutgers denied itself a chance to play in the Orange Bowl, which would have marked their first appearance ever in a BCS bowl.  The tie breaker went to Louisville due to their victory over Rutgers.  Rutgers then went on to lose their Bowl game 13-10 in OT to a stubborn Virginia Tech team. Rutgers had a 7-3 lead going into the fourth quarter, but Virginia Tech fought back to tie the game and then went on to win it in over time.

Looking back at their 2012-2013 season Rutgers is probably satisfied with what their first year head coach was able to accomplish, especially with no previous head coaching experience and a very young group of players.  They will lose two players who decided to forgo their senior and redshirt junior seasons respectively, by entering the NFL draft.  Both losses will hurt, especially since one of those players is their star Running Back Jawan Jamison (who reminds many Rutgers fans of a former Rutgers Scarlet Knight, who is getting ready to play in the Super Bowl this weekend, Ray Rice).

First year head coach Kyle Flood set a Rutgers record after starting his tenure 7-0.  In February 2012 Flood was promoted after long time Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano decided to leave for a NFL job as the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Buc's.  Flood only had two days before national signing day in 2012 to keep his class together, and he largely succeeded in his effort to hold the recruiting class together.  He even was able to add another top offensive lineman to finish a class that many people regard as Rutgers' best recruiting class in history.


Recruiting History and Outlook:

Rutgers' rapid improvement under Greg Schiano and now Kyle Flood is due in large part to their stronger ability to keep a lot of the North Jersey and specifically Bergen County recruits in state.  Bergen Catholic and especially Don Bosco Prep are almost always ranked in the top 25 nationally, and often produce the best HS football talent the state has to offer.  Rutgers also recruits South Florida rather well due to Greg Schiano's ties he developed as Miami's Defensive Coordinator in 1999 and 2000.  He coached former NFL defensive player of the year, safety Ed Reed (Ravens), and also super bowl champion Jonathan Vilma (Saints) during his brief tenure at Miami.  After Schiano's departure for the NFL, Rutgers have not missed a beat in recruiting, and are still able to benefit from the recruiting contacts Rutgers' assistant coaches developed in Florida during the Schiano era.  They also have a number of their offensive coaches who joined Rutgers after the 2011-2012 season from Pitt.  Besides these coaches being use to the grind of major college football recruiting, they also brought experience in recruiting Western PA, Maryland, and the Midwest from their previous post at Pitt.  The experiences at Pitt will probably be valuable to Rutgers now that they are joining the Big Ten.

The table below is just a glimpse at how Rutgers have recruited in comparison to the rest of the nation and the Big Ten over the last 5 years according to  I compared Rivals' data to the available class rankings along with 247, and I decided that since all the sites rankings are relatively similar that I would just offer the Rivals data, and if people wish to compare the data more closely they can take a look at the other sites on their own. rankings from the last 5 complete recruiting classes

Year    Avg stars    Nat. Ranking        Rank within B1G     Total Commits
2012     3.26                24                          3                              19
2011     2.96                32                          6                              24
2010     2.75                64                          9                              24
2009     3.00                38                          8                              23 
2008     2.65                46                          8                              20



The recruiting data are obviously not exactly jaw dropping, but if they were bringing in top 10 classes, I think it would be more worrying relative to how that talent is translating to the field.  Rutgers is not Alabama or Florida, but all the available evidence from their latest results and recruiting information (with the exception being 2010) seems to indicate Rutgers will be able to compete in the Big Ten.  They are ranked in the top half of the Big Ten or close to it by recruiting services almost every year since they started their rapid improvement as a program 5-8 years ago, and the results are starting to show on the field on a consistent basis.  They also have proven they can win their bowl games.  Rutgers had a 5 game winning streak in bowls, which was the longest active streak in the nation before their loss to Virginia Tech this past year.

If I had to compare Rutgers' football program to a current Big Ten program I would have to say Michigan State is very close in their yearly recruiting rankings and also relative to their improved play on the field even if both programs have not yet achieved a level of yearly success in the wins loss column.  There will probably be a short adjustment period when Rutgers enter Big Ten play at the start of the 2014-2015 season, but I think the evidence indicates that they are not the worthless addition that many pundits and fans within the Big Ten have made them out to be. 

In fact formulated a list of schools which should or could become college football powers very rapidly (within 2 years).  Rutgers was amongst ESPN's top 5 when they looked at all the programs currently in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), and asked experts what schools are best positioned to become consistent contenders for BCS bowls and conference championships in the next few years.  They based their rankings off their conversations with 'experts', who were often members of other staffs or administrations at big schools around the country that are familiar with the programs in question.  The people ESPN talked to almost all mentioned Rutgers' massive enrollment (amongst the largest in the country), their proximity to talent rich recruiting areas along with television exposure, and the recently upgraded facilities that are on par with any school in the country.  Due to these reasons there is a belief that Rutgers is considered to be a 'sleeping giant' amongst many college football insiders.

Outlook in the Big Ten:

Ultimately I would predict that Rutgers is an 8-4 team with at least a .500 record when they join the Big Ten in 2014.  As I have pointed out, Rutgers has everything they need to become a football power, and it will be exciting to see how they make the transition to the Big Ten.  Rutgers' true identity is found on the defensive side of the ball, and it is certainly a strength for them usually, and this is probably due to their focus on recruiting great athletes with the speed to compete against almost anyone in the country.  On offense they tend to rely on power running and consistent if not prolific passing on the offensive side of the ball.  The foundation of their program is on recruiting very good defensive and offensive linemen, because like most programs they feel success often starts in the trenches.  Rutgers would seem to project very well as a member of the Big Ten conference and I recommend keeping an open mind to the newest member.

I hope this description of Rutgers' football program (through the eyes of a die hard OSU fan and Rutgers alum) will have helped to broaden people's knowledge and hopefully offer a reason for B1G fans to show some interest in Rutgers.  I know people who are 30 years or older probably still have an image of Rutgers that is based off of their reputation in the 1990s, which was essentially that they were the worst team in college football.  Due to the common image many people have of Rutgers has caused 'us' as Big Ten fans to look at Rutgers as nothing more than an addition to the Big Ten's geographic footprint in the country's largest television market.  Thinking of Rutgers in such a narrow manner has caused people to forget that Rutgers is no longer a team that wins one game a year and that they will bring a good program to the conference, and have the potential to become one of the great programs if they continue to improve.  Ultimately I think people will be pleasantly surprised (maybe angered) by the quality Rutgers will add to Big Ten football.  According to most reports around Rutgers back in November, they wanted assurances from the Big Ten conference that they would be in the same division as Ohio State.  This is likely because Rutgers wants to open up the Ohio area for recruiting and for their own internal financial reasons.  Around NJ it is widely believed that the Big Ten did assure Rutgers they would be in OSU's division, but only time will tell if that is the case. Personally I am happy they are joining the Big Ten and I hope they end up in the same division as OSU, because that will allow me to get great tickets to OSU at Rutgers games.



Visiting Rutgers in the future? 
For future reference New Brunswick, which is the town where Rutgers' main campus is located, is a great place to come watch a football game in my opinion.  If any Buckeye fans are thinking about making the trip sometime for an OSU game here, I would say it is worth the 9 hour drive across PA.  There are plenty of nice restaurants and bars around campus, as well as great tail gating before, during and after games.  It is also a great college town if you are interested in experiencing the Rutgers' nightlife.  If you come to New Brunswick do not leave without visiting the world famous Grease trucks on College Ave.


buckeyedude's picture

Nice write up. Might give me an excuse to go to Jersey some day. I bagged on Delany at first for this move, but I'm kind of getting used to it.
I think Rutgers U. should change it's nickname and get a different mascot (like Illinois is attempting)because Scarlet Knights around the world are offended.



Riggins's picture

I think Rutgers is going to be a consistent 8-4 or 9-3 squad in the B1G.  Everything I've heard from their athletic director, Tim Pernetti, has impressed me.  I know he'll have them on the right track.  Great recruiting turf.

MN Buckeye's picture

It appears that Rutgers has really improved their football facilities recently.  I remeber Rutgers as a doormat, so it looks like they have successfully turned the corner and have become respectable, at least a middle of the road B1G team.

popeurban's picture

I don't believe this will be a popular opinion, but I actually believe Rutgers might have more football upside than Maryland.  I think there is too much SEC competition locally competing against Maryland for the DC recruits whereas Rutgers could have NJ almost to themselves as a local pitch.  I also believe that now being in the B1G will really help their recruiting compared to the Big East.

rgarrett22's picture

If it's not a popular opinion, then it should be. I think Rutgers is a program on the rise, has been an above average football program since Schiano turned them around during the Ray Rice era, and they do have some recruiting advantages to leverage.

I don't think you could say anything similar about Maryland's program which seemed to "peak" during Friedgen's time at the helm and has been on the decline since.

Rutgers should hit the ground running as a competitive team in the B1G; meanwhile, I think Marlyand will struggle to adjust and will be in the bottom 4 of the league for the beginning of their tenure.

cplunk's picture

Nice write-up.
I've been trying to tell people that Rutgers has every opportunity to be a solid contributing member of the B1G ever since they joined. I think your estimate is a good one- I see them as a team that hovers around 8-4 or 9-3 most years, with an occasional run at a conference championship game appearance.
They're going to be better than most the B1G, in other words. Not OSU, TSUN, non-sanction PSU or Nebraska level, but solid.
They may have a hiccup or two in the early years as they adjust, but once they get past the first few seasons they have a good recruiting situation, a commitment to improving facilities and coaching, and the potential to be in a big TV market.

NJ_BUCKEYE's picture

Thanks.  Yea, this is what I thought of when I heard they were joining the B1G as well, and there hasn't really been much that would change my mind.  I know most people may not agree with my opinion, but time will tell if I am right or wrong about them.  One thing I am sure of is that they are not a laughing stock within college football anymore.  They really have a lot of talent in those north jersey towns, which I think I mentioned.  Miami, ND, and PSU have raided NJ for years.  In the 1990s it seemed like every top nj recruit was going to those three programs.
personally I think people need to look at their great potential rather than focus on whether their a national title contender, which they are clearly not right now.  I think adding a team that is probably going to be around the top 5 in the conference and hover in and out of the top 25 is a perfectly good edition.
it's not like the Alabama and LSU type schools are going to be looking for a new conference.  People's expectations of the schools the B1G can realistically add are a little too high in my opinion.

rgarrett22's picture

Great blog post, NJ Buckeye. I think you really do a great job highlighting the many things that Rutgers has going for it and why the rest of B1G country should be pleased with their addition. I'm looking forward to Rutgers being a member of the B1G!

People do have rather unrealistic expectations for conference expansions and there is no reason to be disappointed with the addition of Rutgers.

Codeezy's picture

Great write up! Thank you. Also, I hate New Jersey. Worst state Ive ever been in.

NJ_BUCKEYE's picture

It grows on you as you get to know it better.  I mean North jersey is still going to smell a little funny, and it is the most heavily populated state in the country, but you get use to it along with all the other fun stuff like traffic jams that come with it. Haha! yea it sucks!!
I understand why you would hate it, a lot of people do, especially if you visited the state for a little while or only live here for a year or so.  It takes a little getting used to, but the jersey shore (not the stupid tv show) is really nice to have close by and it is actually a really nice beach and vacation spot as long as you know the right town to stay at.  Although a lot of it was destroyed in 'Super Storm' Sandy back in October, when the eye of the hurricane made land fall between Atlantic City and Cape May.  
Rutgers is actually really nice though, and it isn't too close to the smelly part of the state.

Pam's picture

The "smelly" part of the state is where the oil refineries are and the reason why the gas prices are so low here. Definitely a plus in addition to not having to pump it ourselves. You don't need to defend our state when someone says they hate it. NJ is one of wealthiest and most educated states in the country not to mention beautiful. Living in Princeton,I am an hour from the Shore (our house is in Harvey Cedars, not a Snooki or Pauly "D" to be found"), and hour from NYC and Philly and when the time comes, a short drive to New Brunswick. Driving on the NJ turnpike does not qualify as having been here, which is typically most peoples experience when they say NJ is the worst state ever. The worst state ever has produced some great Buckeyes namely Malcolm Jenkins and Jack "They Call Me Assassin" Tatum.

NJ_BUCKEYE's picture

I hear ya.  I live 2 minutes from princeton myself.  I'll give you a hint that I'm sure you'll figure out.  I live in the town that just welcomed the hospital that relocated here, and directly across route 1 from princeton.  I've lived here for the past 20 years.  I for one wish we could pump our own gas but that is simply because it doesn't take as long as waiting for the people who have to do it.  Kind of a crazy law when you think about it.  I agree there is plenty of great parts of the state, which far out number the unpleasant areas.  That's why I said it takes some getting use to.  The shore is beautiful and our proximity to NYC and Philly are definite bonuses.

Pam's picture

My boss was just at the new hospital. It's like a freakin' 4 star hotel!

Kaceybrown's picture

I kind of like Rutgers & I hope they do well in the B1G, except against the Buckeyes