After an extremely disappointing and concerning week for the Scarlet Knights, Saturday will be a big chance to redeem what was a very promising start to the season. Rutgers will take on the 11th ranked team in the country for the second straight week, as the 5-0 Michigan State Spartans come to Piscataway. While the Spartans do not have as much fire power as Ohio State does, Rutgers still has a lot of work to do this week to prove to the fans that they are actually a Big Ten caliber team.
After a 3-0 start to the Rutgers season, the fans were elated, believing that Rutgers is finally becoming the team it once was in the early 2000’s. However, now they sit at 3-2 with fans questioning whether or not this team actually has what it takes to win Big Ten football games. They showed promise in the Michigan loss, but the loss last week against Ohio State was a mess. The defense didn’t show up, the offense never found its stride, and most importantly Ohio State came to play. Buckeyes quarterback CJ Stroud lit up the Rutgers defense with 330 yards and 5 touchdowns. His defense also helped him out with 3 interceptions, including a pick-six, as Ohio State strolled to a 52-13 victory.
SHI Stadium was nearly sold out, brimming with energized Rutgers fans prior to kickoff. However, by the fourth quarter, O-H-I-O chants rang throughout the bleachers. Rutgers fans, especially students, raced to the exits at halftime, as what they saw on the field was abysmal. Greg Schiano has stated, “I want our students to have something they can come here and be proud of,” when talking about the gameday environment Rutgers has created. Unfortunately, students are not proud of what occured last Saturday, and the Knights have a lot to show the fans this week in order to pack the stadium in the future.
This Spartans team is very good, as they have breezed to a 5-0 start, including a ranked win on the road over #24 Miami. Rutgers will be tasked with stopping yet another top running back in Kenneth Walker III, as he has accumulated 680 yards and 8 rushing TDs on 100 carries this season. However, Rutgers has a good track record when it comes to containing top running backs, as they’ve allowed just 3.8 yards per carry this season despite facing Syracuse running back Sean Tucker and Michigan running back Blake Corum.
Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne has also had a good season to date, as he has accumulated 1236 yards, 11 touchdown passes, and just 1 interception through 5 games. As Rutgers comes off a game where they got embarrassed by the passing game, they must figure out how to stop Thorne. They will be without safety Naijee Jones for the first half, as for the second straight week, a Rutgers player was ejected for a controversial targeting call. The Knights defense must bounce back on Saturday, or else Michigan State may find the endzone quite a bit.
However, the Spartans defense has experienced trouble of their own. They are second to last in the Big Ten in yards allowed per game with 429.2, only in front of Northwestern. They rank dead last in passing yards allowed per game, having allowed 308.8 yards through the air per game. Hopefully, we will see Noah Vedral take more shots down field, and ultimately take advantage of the shaky Spartans defense.
I’d like to say this should be a good game, but Rutgers has not fared well against Big Ten ranked opponents so far. I can see this going one of two ways. Either, both defenses fail to amount to much and we see a high-scoring shootout, or Rutgers is on the losing end of another blowout, bringing their conference record to 0-3 and 3-3 overall.
I will make a prediction, and for the first time in the history of this blog, Rutgers fans will not be happy. I am predicting a 48-38 Rutgers loss, as the shootout prediction comes to fruition. Noah Vedral will have 4 TDs and 307 yards, but the Rutgers defense will struggle yet again, while MSU’s Peyton Thorne and Kenneth Walker III continue their dominance.
Tune in to Big Ten Network on Saturday 10/9 at noon to watch the Rutgers Scarlet Knights take on the #11 Michigan State Spartans at SHI Stadium.