Thursday, August 6, 2015

Nadir Barnwell's Eligability in Jeopardy

Rutgers rising junior cornerback Nadir Barnwell may not be academically eligible this season, Kyle Flood confirmed at Big 10 media day last week. The fourth year head coach said his defensive back will be able to practice with the team this summer, as he completes his summer classes and awaits to see if his grades will be good enough to restore his eligibility. Rutgers final summer sessions usually conclude in mid August.

This is obviously bad news for the Knights, as secondary depth has been a major concern over the last two seasons and seems to be a problem again this year. Barnwell appeared to be living up to his blue chip recruit potential last year, developing into Rutgers' top corner between a minor injury that cost him two games and one game suspension for DUI. Hopefully he is able to attain the grades he needs to get this summer so he can suit up and play in the fall.

Feldman: Rutgers Plays Third Softest Non Conference Schedule

Fox Sports columnist Bruce Feldman's ranked the ten worst non conference schedules among Power 5 teams in his Top 10 column this week and Rutgers checked in at third on the list. They were actually tied with North Carolina State and Mississippi State for having the worst out of conference slate among the big boys according to the formula Feldman used, but they were given the tie breaker over those two since they at least scheduled two Power 5 teams.

Rutgers place on this list is quite frankly well deserved. The Scarlet Knights four non conference games feature a bad FCS program in Norfolk State, the worst program in the Big 12, Kansas, lowly Washington State and Army, who has been one of the worst FBS programs for quite some time. I can confidently say before the season begins that I do not think any of those opponents will even make it to a bowl game this year.

 Rutgers has long been criticized by the media and even some of their own fans for playing too soft of a non conference schedule, but that's just what on the rise and/or middling programs have to do. You schedule easy games and they help you make bowl games and build momentum for the future. It's not a good look and it's boring and unsatisfying beating weak opponents, but such is life. Unfortunately the bowl system rewards scheduling soft and winning and not scheduling hard and maybe losing.  Take note that all three teams atop Feldman's list play in killer divisions. Everyone is chasing that six win plateau.

In Rutgers defense, they have been at least trying to schedule tougher non conference opponents, it just hasn't worked out. Arkansas looked like a top 10 team when a home and home series was scheduled with them, but then Bobby Petrino fell off his motorcycle and all hell broke loose for the Razorbacks. The Knights were able to top bad Hogs teams in both contests, as they were reeling under and interim coach and struggling in Brett Bielema's first season in Fayetteville. Penn State and Maryland were both set to be non conference opponents this season, but Rutgers of course wound up in the same conference as them. During Tim Pernetti's tenure as AD, he tried to add Notre Dame and Oklahoma to the schedule, but a deal could not be reached with either historic program since they both wanted to play Rutgers' "home" game in the Meadowlands rather than Piscataway.

Washington, UCLA and Miami are all scheduled to play home and home series against Rutgers in future seasons and that's a good start. Those are three solidly above averages programs and make for interesting opponents who will be a challenge for the Knights. Hopefully Rutgers continues to establish itself more as a legitimate program and put themselves in position to be able to schedule tougher non conference opponents in order to compete for national rankings and New Years games, not just appearances in crap bowls.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Rutgers Big 10 Media Day Preview

Mr. Harbaugh will no doubt be the center of  attention in Chicago this week
College football media days are analogous with pitchers and catchers reporting to Florida and Arizona every February: people consider it the start of the season, literally nothing of importance happens and you have to wait over a month until the real games start. The head coaches and top players of the Big 10 will converge on Chicago this week for this useless preseason ritual, mere days before the first actual important events of a new season begins and summer camp starts. They have to do it, we pretend to care.

Joining Kyle Flood in the Windy City this week will be three of Rutgers' likely captains for the 2015 season: senior defensive tackle Darius Hamilton, senior wide receiver Leonte Carroo and redshirt senior offensive tackle Keith Lumpkin. Those three represent Rutgers very well on and off the field and are with out question their three top players and well deserving of this honor. They will be there answering questions. I believe Flood will take part in meetings with the conference's other coaches going over new rules and stuff like that. Not very exciting stuff for fans.

Flood will probably be asked questions that he answered all spring about the quarterback competition that will take place, Ben McDaniels replacing Ralph Friedgen at offensive coordinator, what adjustments the program has made after one year in the Big 10, etc. Yawn. The players will be asked what it was like playing in the Big 10 after playing in the Big East, what their expectations are for this year, and a bunch of other boring crap. Whatever.

The media's Big 10 predictions were released in advance of this thing, and unsurprisingly, they are not optimistic about Rutgers this season. And why should they be? The Scarlet Knights were predicted to finish 6th in the Eastern division ahead of only lowly Indiana. That's better than last year, I guess, when they were picked 7th. Ohio State was unsurpisngly picked to win the East and the conference championship game, while the Badgers of Wisconsin were picked to repeat in the western division despite their coaching change.

Here's my official, probably half baked prediction on how the divisions will shake out:

1. Ohio State- I mean, obviously. They have almost ever significant player from last year's national championship team back, as well as a whole new batch of blue chip recruits. They would probably win the conference running away with any of their three quarterbacks. They have the most talent in the conference by a significant margin and the best coaching staff too led by Urban Meyer. I think Cardale Jones will be the starter under center (or more accurately, about 4 yards behind center), Zeke Elliot will be a Heisman candidate and Joey Bosa will be the nation's best defensive player/

2. Michigan State- The Spartans have had a really good run over the last few years, but they have been overshadowed by Buckeyes (even after they beat them in the Big 10 championship game in 2013). I fully expect them to be a top 10 team and go to a New Year's 6 bowl game for the third consecutive year. Quarterback Connor Cook, who very well may end the Big 10's 20 year drought with out a QB selected in the 1st round of the NFL draft, returns, with Jack Conklin protecting his blind side and paving way for their usual strong rushing attack. Mark Dantonio is a very good defensive mind, so I don't expect this defense to skip a beat even after losing coordinator Pat Narduzzi. This unit will once again be led on the field by Middletown, NJ's own Shaq Calhoun.

3. Michigan- Jim Harbaugh is with out a doubt one of the five the best coach at any level in football right now. Building lowly Stanford into a powerhouse on the west coast was nothing short of miraculous and he immediately turned the San Francisco 49ers around, ending a long era of losing with a Super Bowl appearance and three division titles in 4 years with out a franchise QB. I don't expect that drastic of a turnaround with his alma mater in year one, but the Wolverines should be significantly better than they were under Brady Hoke.

4. Penn State- Christian Hackenburg struggled mightily last season adjusting to a new offense and playing behind a terrible offensive line that could neither protect him or generate a run game. Will he play more like he did his freshman year in 2015? Probably. "Linebacker U's" defense will be led by defensive tackle Anthony Zettel, who almost single handily beat Rutgers last year. Solid team, probably going to be overrated though.

5. Rutgers- I'll have a lot more (hopefully) on the Knights in the coming days, but quick summary: the defense is still undersized and prone to getting pushed around, the offensive line is pretty inexperienced, as is whatever quarterback, but they have Carroo and the running backs as bright spots. I don't think they are much worse than Penn State, but Rutgers has to go to Happy Valley and play two much tougher cross divisional opponents.

6. Maryland- Maryland was bitten by the injury bug yet again last year (hmmm maybe that's because they have a borderline abusive coach?), but like Rutgers, had a decent inaugural season in the Big 10. They lost veteran QB CJ Bown to graduation, as well as top playmaker Stefon Diggs to the NFL, so I expect a fall of this year.

7. Indiana- The Hoosiers might have been a bowl team a year ago if Nate Sudfeld didn't miss half the season. It was kind of a shame that Tevin Coleman's college career ended with out a bowl appearance, but so it goes. I think Kevin Wilson is a good coach, but he just doesn't have nearly the talent to compete in this division. He'll probably be unfairly fired after this year and the Indiana football sucking wheel will perpetuate.

West- I'm honestly a lot less familiar with the west, so I'm just winging this

1. Minnesota- If they are ever going to win the west, it will be this year. Jerry Kill's team just plays solid, fundamental football on both sides off the ball. Wisconsin and Nebraska are adjusting to new coaches and will both have to travel to Minneapolis, so this might be the Gophers' year.

2. Wisconsin- Paul Chryst takes over at his alma mater and brings a strong offensive track record with him. The Badgers are going to have a dominant running game as they usually do, led by Paul James' high school teammate, Glassboro, NJ's own Corey Clement, there's no question about this. Chryst's defenses at Pitt were, well below average to put it kindly, so we'll have to see what the Badgers defense will look like. Keeping defensive coordinator Dave Aranda from Gary Anderson's staff was a huge coupe.

3. Nebraska- Mike Riley takes over for Bo Pelini in Lincoln and I don't know what to expect from him. Riley did a pretty solid job at Oregon State, being a consistent bowl participant and coming close to a couple conference titles, but this wasn't the flashy hire you would expect a program like Nebraska to have. I expect the Huskers to struggle somewhat adjusting to new schemes on both sides of the football and with the lose of Randy Gregory and Ameer Abdullah.

4. Northwestern- Uhhh, I think Pat Fitzgerald is a good coach.

5. Purdue- I like Darrell Hazel too.

6. Iowa- Hey, I'm just trying to make this interesting.

7. Illinois- Wretched football program and another abusive coach.

Site Note- Yes, I took a long hiatus, but I'm coming back. I will probably change the name of the blog too,

Friday, November 7, 2014

Week 11 Power Rankings

Tier 1

1. Ohio State
The Buckeyes received quite a scare during their visit to Happy Valley, being pushed to overtime against a bad Penn State team, but they came out on top. They are a young team and that was their first true road game, so that should help them moving forward.

JT Barrett has played like the best QB in the conference this year and the young offensive line has gotten on a roll. Dominant defensive end Joey Bosa leads the defense, as the secondary continues to improve. Illinois gave them no issue last week, and they head to East Lansing this week for the Big 10 showdown of the year.

2. Michigan State
Even after losing a few starters in the secondary, including first round draft pick Darqueze Dennard, the "no fly zone" passing defense has returned to being one of the nations elites after a rough early season outing against Oregon.

Conner Cook has started playing well again after a some what rocky stretch and Tony Lippett has been the best reciver in the conference so far this year. Jeremy Langford has also gotten going, giving Sparty a balanced attack. They welcome Ohio State tomorrow,

Tier 2

Ameer Abdullah went down with a knee injury in last week's win over Purdue, but he is not expected to miss much time with it. Even with out him, the Huskers should be able to run the ball behind a powerful offensive line, they will just need QB Tommy Armstrong to limit his mistakes in the passing game.

The defense is not very stout against the run, but they have the lowest passer rating against in the conference and Randy Gregory is pass rushing like a future top 10 pick.

4. Wisconsin
So yea, they bullied Rutgers up front last week on both sides of the football. Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement both went well over 100 yards, despite their non existent passing game. Remember when I said their defense isn't as a good as the numbers indicate? That comment looks extremely laughable now.

Tier 3

5. Minnesota
The Gophers are very well coached on defense and David Cobb is a great running back, but your not going to win your division dropping games to Illinois.

6. Maryland
Their horrible run defense was a non issue last week against Penn State's horrible run offense, but it could bite them at some point down the road. The explosive offense will be with out top play maker Stefon Diggs after this week's bye, since he was suspended for showing the Nittany Lions the disrespect they deserve.

7. Iowa
The run game has gone hot and cold this year, but they are still putting up some points thanks to their surprisingly effective passing attack. Still need to tighten things up on defense. They isit Minnesota this week in a big western division show down.

Tier 4

8. Rutgers
They were embarrassed three weeks in a row by the leagues best teams, but they check in at 8 because this conference as a whole is so bad.

9. Michigan
Devin Gardner has played well since coming back from his inexplicable benching. The front seven is still strong and the secondary remains an issue.

10. Northwestern
Strong defense, bad offense in pretty much every game. They've played themselves out of division title contention in a hurry.

11. Penn State
Horrible offensive line and running game have prevented Hackenberg from being better. Still think they have the best defense in the conference, and that will keep them in every game.

Tier 5

12. Purdue
The offense has been running the ball very effectively since Austin Applebee was inserted at QB. Surprisingly competitive team, Darrell Hazell probably should be coach of the year no matter what, but he won't be if they miss a bowl.

Tier 6

13. Illinois
They shockingly beat Minnesota and that will probably be the high point of the season. Doubt Tim Beckham can save his job at this point.

14. Indiana
Such a shame Tevin Coleman plays on such a horrible team.

B1G Predictions:

Penn State 20 Indiana 17
The Nittany Lions tough run defense should contain, but not stop Coleman. Hackenberg will probably make a couple plays against a bad defense to win.

Iowa 20 Minnesota 21
The Gophers will squeak out a win at home thanks to Cobb and the ball control offense. I would expect The Hawkeyes rushing attack to run cold against a good defense,

Wisconsin 42 Purdue 17
The Badgers will run all over the Boilermakers.

Michigan 13 Northwestern 16
This is gong to be a drag it out defensive battle. I'll pick the Cats in a low scoring game since they are at home.

Ohio State 27 Michigan State 24
I expect the Buckeyes to be extremely fired up for this revenge game after the Spartans cost them a shot at the national championship a year ago. I expect the Spartans defense to stop Barrett through the air, but to struggle stopping the run. Michigan State should be able to run the ball well, but I think Bosa coming off the edge will be a big factor. The Buckeyes special teams will give them an edge and field pisition and likely decide the game.

Other Picks:
Baylor 24 Oklahoma 30

Notre Dame 20 Arizona State 24

Alabama 17 LSU 14

Kansas State 27 TCU 31

Oregon 43 Utah 31

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Game 9: Wisconsin

Wisconsin visits Piscataway this week for a rainy homecoming as the Scarlet Knights look to end their losing streak. With how Rutgers homecoming games usually go and how bad the Knight shave been at stopping the run, I expect this to once again be a loppsided loss for Rutgers.

Rutgers on offense: I'm typing this at 11:50 and still don't know if Gary Nova will play. Regarldess of whether he or Chis Laviano is under center today, I would expect the Knights to try to keep the offense balanced today. I don't think Wisconsin's defense is as good as the numbers indicate, so I expect them to score some points. RobMartin's role will probably continue to grow today, and look for them to get Janarion Grant and Desmon Peoples in space. Wisconsin's defense is slow and Coach Friedgen will look to use Rutgers speed as an advantage. Leonte Carroo went down and grabbed his knee during pregame warmups, so we will have to watch his status today as he looks to go over 100 yards for the 3rd game in a row.

Rutgers on defense: Well, the only question today is how far over 200 yards Melvin Gordon will go. The Badgers offensive line is one of the best in the country and Rutgers' defensive line and run defense in general have been completely overwhelmed in recent weeks, so it's going to be ugly. Joel Stave is in at QB, and he has the yips this year and lacks a diffenerence maker to throw to. Joe Rossi should load the box with 8 or 9 every play to try to stop the run. The corners should be able to win 1 on 1 outside.

Rutgers 30 Wisconsin 42

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Week 9 Power Rankings and Picks

Doing it with tiers this week

Tier 1
1. Ohio State
LW: 56-17 win over Rutgers
TW: at Penn State
Prediction: Ohio State 38 Penn State 14

The Buckeyes are just steam rolling everything in their path. They are head and shoulder talent wise ahead of everyone else in the conference and they have the best coaching staff too. Don't think anyone here is going to argue with this after last week. I would be surprised if anyone besides Michigan State is competitive with them this year.

Tier 2
2. Michigan State
LW: 56-17 win over Indiana
TW: Michigan
Prediction: Michigan State 34 Michigan 10

Their defense is not as strong as it was a year agao, and Conner Cook has been scuffling a bit lately, but Kendall Langford and their offensive line have established a strong ground game in recent weeks.

LW: 38-17 win at Northwestern
 TW: Rutgers
Prediction: Coming Soon

AmeerAbdullah might be the best tailback in the country with Gurley suspended and Tommy Armstrong is improving as a passer. Randy Gregory is playing like a top 5 pick at defensive end, but this still isn't your typical Black Shirt Defense,

Tier 3:
4. Minnesota
LW:39-38 win over Purdue
TW: at Illinois
Prediction: Minnesota 30 Illinois 17

The Gophers normally solid defense faltered big time against Purdue lat week, but the David Cobb led offense managed to win a shoot out.

5. Rutgers
LW: 56-17 loss at Ohio State
TW: at Nebraska
Prediction: Coming Soon

They were destroyed in Columbus last week, but I think most teams in this conference would have been too, The run defense has surprisingly been a big issue, but their offense has continued to be solid,

6. Maryland
LW: 38-31 win over Iowa
TW: at Wisconsin
Prediction: Maryland 24 Wisconsin 31

Maryland has an explosive, albeit inconsistent offense led by the dynamic Stefon Diggs, but their run defense has been a major issue and that will be a problem as they visit the Badgers this week.

7. Northwestern
LW: 38-17 loss to Nebraska
TW: Bye

Still looking for something on offense. Defense still looks strong, despite getting a bit pushed around by the Huskers.

8, Wisconsin
LW: Bye
TW: Maryland
Prediction: Wisconsin 31 Maryland 24

Great offensive line, great back in Melvin Gordon, but this team can not throw the ball and their young , banged up defense has not lived up to the expectations their defense has set in recent years,

9. Iowa
LW: 38-31 loss at Maryland
TW: Bye

Te offense has some what surprisngly been very good this year.Their defense, not so much,

Tier 4:
10. Michigan
LW: Bye
TW: at Michigan State
Prediction: Michigan 10 Michigan State 34

This team still has an outside chance at making a bowl game. They had a nightmare road trip to East Lansing last year (I think they ran for negative yards) so I would expect more of the dame in this one. If they keep Cook in check it could be close.

11. Purdue
LW: 39-38 loss at Minnesota
TW: Bye

They are a competitive football team and they are getting better every week. Their rushing attack has been borderline dominant?

12. Penn State
LW: Bye
TW: Ohio State
Prediction: Penn State 14 Ohio State 38

Their offensive line simply prevents them from being able to do anything on offense. DOesn't even matter how th hot shot QB plays, Their defense might be the best in the conference though, and that should keeo them in games, including this one against the Bucks.

Tier 5:
13. Indiana
LW: 56-17 loss to Michigan State
TW: Bye

Tevin Coleman is an outstanding back, it;s a shame his efforts are going mostly to waste.

14. Illinois
LW: Bye
TW: Minnesota
Prediction: Illinois 17 Minnesota 30

They play Ohio State next week. Hide the woman and children.


Ole Miss 13 LSU 9
Tough to pick against LSU at home for a night game, but early departures to the NFL have really hurt them, Ole Miss has the best defensive line in the country. I would expect a low scoring game, the Tigers are going to need to force Wallace to turn the ball over multiple times,

USC 24 Utah 21
USC's rushing attack against the Utes quick front line should be a fun matchup to watch, If the Trojns run defense shows up I think they win,

Washington 34 Arizona State 30
I like the Huskies pulling off the upset at home.

Arizona 41 Washington State 35
Would be cool if Washington State started winning,

Clemson 40 Syracuse 0
Clemson is playing their back up QB but this will be a laugher,

West Virginia 34 Oklahoma State 20
The Cowboys offense has really been scuffling this year, That defense is solid though.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rutgers Annihilated by Ohio State 56-17

We saw first hand just how far away Rutgers is from competing for a Big 10 championship on Saturday, as they were totally outclassed by Ohio State by the score of 56-17 in front of 106,795 fans, which was the most Rutgers has ever played in front of. The Buckeyes were just the bigger, faster, more physical and more talented, better coached team and it showed in a huge way. This was Rutgers largest margin of defeat in 12 years. This was a total embarrassment of a game that just needs to be forgotten as the team moves forward. Almost nothing good happened in this game. I hate looking back on blow outs,so at least I will save some time writing this recap.

The defense was an unmitiglated disaster in this game, there's no way around that. Ohio State scored a touchdown on seven of their ten non end of half drives, which is totally unacceptable,The line was getting blown off the ball on almost every play and the tackling at the second and third level was atrocious, which has been a season long theme but was especially bad in this game. Making matters worse was the fact that Ohio State was snapping the ball before Rutgers had their play call in and/or not yet set up. That's 100% in the coaching staff, They should be prepared for that kind of stuff.

JT Barrett escaped pressure numerous times and ran free for a whole bunch of yards and touchdowns. It looked like Rutgers was playing man coverage and there was just nobody there to stop him. I'm not a big fan of spying quarterbacks, but they probably should have spied him. This was obviously an extreme circumstance, they won't play another offense even close to the Buckeyes level this year, but I am growing very concerned with this unit.

The offense was.....not horrible. The offensive line struggled in pass protection, but I thought they were pretty good run blocking. The Knights ran 34 times for 180 yards (5.3 per carry) when you don't include sack yardage, which is very nice. They struggled on the ground in their first two Big 10 games, but this was a strong performance. Keith Lumpkin in particular deserves a ton of credit, a lot of Rutgers big runs came behind him off left tackle and he was mauling people. Especially since the Buckeyes put star defensive end Joey Bosa on the offense's right for most of the game. Both Desmon Peoples (qho scored his the first two touchdowns of his career in this game)and Justin Goodwin ran the ball very well in this one, and Rob Martin showed some flashes of potential late in the game. Good to at least see the run game get going. Most of the game was garbage time, but Ohio State kept their starters in until late in the 4th quarter,

Gary Nova was under pressure pretty much every time he dropped back, but he only turned the ball over once and averaged seven yards per attempt. That's ok-ish. He made a nice escape to complete a 40 yard deep ball to Leonte Carroo, and Carroo also made a circus catch leaping and ripping the ball away from a defender as part of a 100 yard receiving day. The Iron Men duo almost connected for a touchdown in the redzone before half time, but Nova left the pass a little short and it was intercepted. They probably should have ended up with about 24-28 points in this game, which is on line with what they have been doing. You should still feel good about this group.

This game was very ugly for the defense, and they need to just put it on their rear view mirror as they prepare for a tough Nebraska team. The offense at least showed some positives they can build on moving forward. This game was embarrassing and showed that Rutgers is nowhere close to being on Ohio State's level in any stretch of the imagination, The Big 10 as a whole is very watered down, but the Buckeyes are still an elite program who could very well be in the playoff this January.