Just beyond the halfway point of the 2021 campaign, Rutgers sits at 3-4, still winless in conference play. After starting 3-0, Rutgers fans hoped that this team was finally ready for Big Ten football. But after facing 4 Big Ten opponents, the Knights are still looking at a goose egg in the conference win column. It’s time to take a look back at what Rutgers has done well, what they haven’t done so well, and what they’ve failed to do whatsoever.
● Rutgers has built a positive culture around Chop. Fans love chop, players love chop, and Greg Schiano loves to preach chop. Any successful D1 football program needs culture and identity. Rutgers has built that at the helm of Greg Schiano.
● Rutgers has built a gameday environment that makes fans want to go to the games. In past years, attendance has been low, and the student section has been empty. The student section has been packed this year (at least to start the games), and attendance numbers have been high. Even recruits have had positive things to say about the environment after their visits.
● Adam Korsak is now a 4-time Ray Guy Punter of the Week Award winner. He ranks at the top of the Big Ten and 5th in the FBS in net average yards per punt, a statistic that calculates punt yards minus return yards.
● Aron Cruickshank has continued to be a top returner, as he leads the Big Ten in kick return yards, and places third in punt return yards. He also has added a punt return touchdown this season.
● Bo Melton has had a solid start to his season, as he has accumulated 354 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns. His numbers are good but could definitely be better with some better QB play. He has been the star of the offense to this point.
● Olakunle Fatukasi ranks third in the Big Ten in tackles with 63 and 11th in the Big Ten in sacks with 3.5. His solid defensive performance has definitely been the highlight of a unit that has had their struggles.
● After a 3-0 start where they outscored their opponents 123-34, Rutgers now sits at 3-4, having been outscored 46-124 in their last 4 games. They remain winless in conference play.
● They suffered a loss to a Northwestern team that has lost to Duke. Duke is 3-4 this year but is not a good team at all. While there are many different factors that play into Northwestern’s games against Rutgers and Duke, it is not good to have lost to a team that lost to Duke.
● Rutgers sits near the bottom of the conference in third down conversions and fourth down conversions, with both numbers being at 36.4%. While this is bad, teams like Penn State, Iowa, and Michigan State have posted worse numbers to this point, so it’s certainly possible to have these numbers and be a successful team. Nonetheless, these are numbers Rutgers needs to work to improve.
● After a hot start, the Knights defense has allowed 510 yards per game over the last 3 games. It’s very hard to win games with a number like that. Granted, we did see what this unit is capable of early in the season, but they must get back to that level if they expect to win more games this season
● With the exception of Illinois, Northwestern is arguably worse than every team Rutgers has left on their schedule. Rutgers needs to get better fast if they expect to win any more games this season.
● Rutgers has lost the support of many fans, with many more close behind. Rutgers is seeing success in virtually all sports except football, making it very easy for Scarlet Knights fans to give up on football this year.
● In late September, defensive backs Max Melton and Chris Long were charged with three counts of aggravated assault and possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes and were subsequently suspended indefinitely from the team. While they were recently reinstated before the Northwestern game, they are still awaiting trial on November 4th.
● Rutgers opened this season with their eyes on playing in their first bowl game since 2014. After a 3-0 start, the Knight’ bowl hopes were within reach. However, after four straight losses including a loss to Northwestern, bowl hopes may be slipping away.
● Noah Vedral is bad. It had to be said. His stats aren’t terrible as he has 1274 yards and 7 TDs, but he truly is the biggest liability Rutgers has. He misses wide open throws and chooses not to throw the ball under any sort of pressure. He’s a fighter and fans have to respect that, but it’s time to start the transition to Gavin Wimsatt, as Rutgers doesn’t have much to lose at this point.
The Knights enter a much needed bye week this week, and will take on the Illinois Fighting Illini on 10/30 in Illinois. After that, Rutgers has Wisconsin at home, Indiana on the road, Penn State on the road, and Maryland at home to end the season. I’d say Rutgers' ceiling during their final 5 games is 3-2, and their floor is 0-5. I do not see Rutgers beating Penn State in Happy Valley, and with the way Rutgers has played, it’s hard to see them beating both Wisconsin and Indiana. I think Rutgers should beat both Illinois and Maryland, but anything could happen. Either way, Rutgers has to step it up if they plan on going bowling this year.