As a steaming hot Rutgers team ends Week 3 with a 3-0 record in non-conference play, the Scarlet Knights are faced with their toughest challenge yet; the #19 Michigan Wolverines. Currently, Rutgers is the underdog, which comes to no one’s surprise. What is surprising however, is that Rutgers is a 19 point underdog. Both Rutgers and Michigan have gotten off to similarly hot starts. Both teams have allowed just 34 points through the first 3 games, for an average of 11.3 points allowed per game. The Michigan offense has outscored the Knights by a slim 6 point margin, 47-41 points per game.
One of the biggest concerns for Scarlet Knights fans to open the season was Noah Vedral’s ability to consistently throw the ball down field. After a promising 30 yard passing touchdown against Syracuse, Vedral continued to ease some of the concern against Delaware. He threw for 323 yards and 2 TDs, including a 28 yard TD to Bo Melton, a 62 yard TD to Brandon Sanders, as well as another pass of 57 yards to Melton. Vedral will have to continue to elevate his game as he faces a Michigan defense that has allowed only 176.7 passing yards per game this season.
Rutgers will also be tested on the defensive side of the ball. The Knights defense has been very strong to this point, but it will have to slow Michigan RB Blake Corum, one of the nation’s leading rushers. Corum has accumulated 407 yards and 7 touchdowns through the Wolverines’ first 3 games, as well as averaging 8.5 yards a carry. Rutgers faced Delaware RB Dejoun Lee, the reigning Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Year last week, allowing 127 yards on only 15 carries, however it is important to note that he had a 71 yard rush. The Scarlet Knights defense kept Lee out of the endzone, but they still must elevate their game to contain Corum.
Last season, Rutgers fell to Michigan 48-42 in a game that took 3 overtimes to be settled. Rutgers led the game early, but a 28 point second half for Michigan evened up the game at the end of regulation. Valentino Ambrosio missed a 45 yard field goal in the first overtime period that would have won the game for Rutgers, so the Scarlet Knights’ kicker will certainly be looking for vengeance. Dating back to the 2015 season, Michigan currently holds a 6 game winning streak over Rutgers. The only loss Michigan has to Rutgers came the year prior, when the newest members of the Big Ten upset the Wolverines.
Greg Schiano has built a winning culture in New Brunswick, something that fans have longed for since his departure in 2011. However, Rutgers still has a lot to prove. Seeing that this team has improved week after week, they clearly know what they are in for. Michigan has been strong, and they may overlook Rutgers as they likely have for the past few years. However, last fall was probably a wake up call for Michigan. A near loss to a Rutgers team they have dominated for years may have shown them that the Greg Schiano led Rutgers is not the Rutgers they are used to playing.
I predict another strong performance by Vedral en route to a 38-35 nailbiter Rutgers victory. Ambrosio will get redemption as he nails the winning field goal to quiet The Big House. Rutgers will struggle to contain Blake Corum, but Noah Vedral will return the favor as he passes for 274 yards and 3 touchdowns. Kyle Monangai and Isaih Pacheco will each add rushing touchdowns as well.
Tune in to ABC @ 3:30 pm on Saturday 9/25 to watch the Rutgers Scarlet Knights take on the #19 Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor, MI.