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.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Game 7: Ohio State

Rutgers heads out west to Columbus to take on Ohio State in their first conference road game as a member of the Big 10. The 105,00 people expected to attend today's game will be the biggest crowd Rutgers has ever played in front of. Noise obviously will be a factor for the offense's communication today. Ohio State has a very young team that got off to a slow start this season, and they are missing star quarterback Braxton Miller, but Urban Meyer's crew has been improving every week and they are starting to play like the best team in the Big 10 and a playoff contender like they were expected to be. This is going to be the most difficult game for Rutgers to win in quite a long time.

Rutgers on Offense
I don't think Rutgers is going to be able to run the ball today. Betim Bujari will play after looking questionable all week, but the line as a whole has not been playing well in Big 10 play and neither Desmon Peoples or Justin Goodwin have been able to get going since Paul James went down.

Once again, Gary Nova is going to have to step up and win this game. He did it last time out against Michigan, and Ohio State does have a secondary that can be beat. He is going to need time to throw though, and Ohio State defensie end Joey Bosa is one of the best pass rushers in the Big 10. Seems like they are going to have to attack with the short passing game today, I'd expect Tyler Kroft and John Tsimis to be heaily inolved. Hopefully Andrew Turzilli's performance against Michigan will lead to Leonte Carroo getting double teamed less and he can win some one on one match ups over the middle and also deep.

Rutgers on Defense
Virginia Tech shut down Ohio State's offense by playing a bunch of Bear fronts and cover 0. I remember Hokie defensie coordinator Bud Foster saying they were treating Ohio State like a triple option team and were daring JT Barrett to beat them. They also blitzed the crap out of him and forced a bunch of turnovers.

Barrett has taken huge leaps forward since that game, so that game plan probably won't work today. Still, I would expect Rutgers to stay in their 4-3 under fronts with a safety down in the box to stop the run. Despite Barrett being in the top 5 nationally in pass efficiency, they should sellout to stop the run (not as much as VT, keep a safety over the top) and dare him to beat them. Blitz the crap out of him and force mistakes too.

Rutgers 24 Ohio State 38

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Week 8 B1G Power Rankings and Picks

1. Ohio State
Last Week: Bye
This Week: Rutgers
Prediction: Coming Soon

Their offense has really been rolling since that weird loss to Virginia Tech. The young offensive line has played really well and JT Barrett has basically replicated Braxton Miller. Joey Bosa leads the stout front seven, but the secondary is a bit of a weakness. Urban Meyer has done a good job with this young team.

2. Michigan State
Last Week: 45-31 win at Purdue
This Week: at Indiana
Prediction: MSU 48 IND 16

Purdue had the ball with a minute left down seven, so this game was closer than the final score indicates. Their offense has played really well, but the defense has not lived up to its' very lofty expectations. Indiana will not give them any problems, however.

3. Nebraska
Last Week: Bye
This Week: at Northwestern
Prediction: NEB 27 NW 20

I would expect their defense to play better in the second half of the year, Pelini is a very good defensive coach. Ameer Abdullah is probably the cream of the crop at the running back position in the Big 10, despite the low yardage total in East Lansing.

4. Rutgers
Last Week: Bye
This Week: at Ohio State
Prediction: Coming Soon

The advanced stats have Rutgers ranked 24th nationally. That is kind of surprising, especially since these stats usually have the Knights lower than they should be (at least in my opinion). But Rutgers is rated as a top 36 team in all three phases of the game, so that's at least believable.

5. Minnesota
Last Week: 24-17 win over Northwestern
This Week: Purdue
Prediction: MIN 24 PUR 14

A big kick return for a touchdown and a solid defense and running game won the Gophers a big Big 10 West showdown last week.

6. Iowa
Last Week: 45-29 win over Indiana
This week: at Maryland
Prediction: Iowa 31 Maryland 27

Their offense exploded against Indian's struggling defense. They are very much in the thick of things in the wide open west, and they do have Nebraska at home the day after Thanksgiving.

7. Northwestern
Last Week: 24-17 loss at Minnesota
This Week: Nebraska
Prediction: NW 20 NEB 27

Their defense has played really well the last few weeks, but they need more out of their offense. Veneric Mack's late decision to transfer has really hurt them.

8. Wisconsin
Last Week: 38-28 win over Illinois
This Week: Bye

Joel Stave replaced Tanner McEvoy at QB, but the Badgers still lack difference makers at wide out and still can not moe the ball through the air. Their offensive line is still dominant and Melvin Gordon seemingly runs for 200 yards every week, so they are far totally helpless on O.

9. Michigan
Last Week: 18-13 win over Penn State
This Week: Bye

The Wolverines keep continuing to fight despite a lot of distractions. Their front seven should keep them in a lot of games, and I think offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has done a good job despite injuries, the young/bad line and Gardner being streaky.

10. Maryland
Last week: Bye
This Week: Iowa
Prediction: Maryland 27 Iowa 31

Their defense has been lit up by teams that have actual offenses (ie. not Syracuse and USF) and I'm not buying their own offense for some reason. This is not a bad team and they should go bowling, I'm just not nearly as high on them as others seem to be.

11. Penn State
Last Week: 18-13 loss at Michigan
This Week: Bye

Hackenberg threw his first touchdown pass since September 6, but he has still throwin more interceptions than touchdowns. Not all his fault, obviously. They have a great defense but it isn't enough to overcome the seemingly helpless offense.

12. Purdue
Last Week: 45-31 loss at Purdue
This Week: at Minnesota
Prediction: PUR 14 MIN 24

Darrell Hazell's team has been surprisingly competitive against some really good teams. They are not a very good, but the program is definitely going in the right direction.

13. Indiana
Last Week: 45-29 loss at Iowa
This Week: Michigan State
Prediction: IND 16 MSU 48

The defense was again lit up and they lost QB Nate Sudfeld for the year. A promising start to the season has turned south in a hurry.

14. Illinois
Last Week: 38-28 loss at Wisconsin
This Week: Bye

They at least scored some points with out Lunt, but their defense isn't stopping anybody.

Other Picks
Oklahoma 27 Kansas State 21

Bob Stoops rarely loses at home and Trevor Knight will probably get back on track after a couple rough games (please call Katy Perry, dude).

Florida State 37 Notre Dame 34

I actually think Notre Dame is pretty legit this year, but I can't imagine their defense slowing down the Noles at the Doak after getting picked apart by North Carolina,

Alabama 41 Texas A&M 24

The Tide have played two sub par games in a row and I think they are going to run all over the Aggies. Kenny Hill won't provide the Manziel magic* in this one.

*Manziel magic is another way of saying Luke Joeckl, Mike Evans, Ryan Swopes, Christine Michael and Jake Matthews.

Arkansas 24 Georgia 20

Didn't happen this week against Mizzou, but Georgia's offense will miss Todd Gurley. The Razorbacks (maybe the worst team in the SEC west) will run the ball effectively to beat the best team in the SEC East.

Oregon 34 Washington 30

The Huskies have not defeated the Ducks in 10 years, and I don't think they can pull of the upset. The opportunistic defense led by Shaq Thompoon will keep it interesting.

TCU 41 Oklahoma State 34

That TCU Baylor games was something else last week. The Horned Frogs could easily have a let down after that gut wrenching loss, but Gary Patterson will keep it together.

Arizona State 28 Stanford 21 (seven field goals)

I wonder if Todd Graham has any family in Ann Arbor or Gainsville.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rutgers Midseason Review

Rutgers' first bye week of the season comes exactly at the half way point, so this seems like as good of a time as any to take stock in what has happened in the Scarlet Knights' first six games.

Before the season, I thought Rutgers would go 4-8. I felt that the talent was there to compete in the watered down Big 10, but I had very little confidence in Kyle Flood getting the job done after not only losing but getting blown out my a number of inferior teams in the AAC last year. A bowl berth would have been considered a major success coming into the 2014 season. Through six games they have already surpassed my projected win total and one win away from bowl eligibility. I'm happy to be wrong.

Rutgers was able to win a shoot out over Washington State in a game many thought would see their much maligned secondary exposed by the pass happy Cougs. They gave up a whole lot of yards, but clamped down in the redzone and let the offense do their thing. They were also able to win what I thought would be an extremely tough game at Navy.

But funny enough, the one game they actually lost, their Big 10 debut at home against Penn State, was one of the four games I had marked down as a win.

We Still Don't Know What to Expect From Gary Nova
We all knew that Gary Nova was going to be Rutgers quarterback all season, come hell or high water, but we had no idea what to expect out of him performance wise. His play in the first half of the year did not provide much clarity.

Nova is 5th nationally in passing efficiency, and he did throw for a career high 404 yards against a solid Michigan defense, but that five interception game against Penn State still happened. Hopefully that was just a blip on the radar and he continues playing like he has in the other five games the rest of the way.

Just How Good is the Offensive Line?
Rutgers offensive line was able to dominate against non power five opponents like Howard, Tulane and Navy, as well as a Washington State defense made soft by the air raid offense they had to practice against through out training camp, but they struggled mightily in their first two Big 10 games. They averaged 4.4 yards a carry and only allowed three sacks in their four out of conference games, but they are averaging just 2.89 yards a carry with five sacks allowed in the two conference games.

Michigan and Penn State are flawed teams, but they are both very good at defending the run, and they even rank first and second in the Big 10 in rushing defense (going by yards per attempt instead of total yards). Hopefully those two poor performances were just a result of facing two ery tough defense. The worst performances of the year are hopefully behind the Knights, but things obviously have to improve. I don't mean to call out or criticize players, but LG Kaleb Johnson came into the year as an NFL prospect and he has not played up to expectations. They will need better play from right tackle too, whether it's from Taj Alexander or JJ Denman.

I believe this unit will play better moving forward, and they pretty much have to for this team to be able to run the ball well with out Paul James.

Kemoko Turay: The Real Deal, But Still a Ways to Go
Turay barely played football in high school and sat out last year as a redshirt, but he supposedly was really impressive on the scout team and carried that level of impressive play over into spring and fall camp this year. Combining a rare blend of length, athleticism, and explosion off the ball, he has burst on to the scene seemingly out of nowhere as one of the best pure pass rushers in college football. He in actually leads the Big 10 in sacks with 5.5.

There is no questioning his success as a pass rusher, but in order for him to become a starter and reach (or come close to) his considerably high ceiling, he is going to need to play better against the run. He is still a bit undersized and learning the intricacies of the defense and run fits and stuff, but those things should come with time. Turay is a great player now, and he will only get scarier for opposing teams in the coming years.

The Secondary Has Improved
Rutgers secondary was historically bad a year ago, so it was almost impossible for them to not get better this year. This group is still pretty young, and they have not exactly been dominant, but they have been good enough to win ball games.

Obviously, they haven't played quarterbacks in the realm of Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles or Derek Carr (all three of whom are starting in the NFL now), but the numbers have improved by leaps and bounds. They allowed 31 passing touchdowns last year, and they have only given up 6 through half a season this year. They were 101st in pass efficiency defense and have made a modest improvement to 79th so far this year. There's still a lot of room for improvement, but they are trending in the right direction.

One noticeable change Joe Rossi has made this year is playing more man coverage. The Knights watched their zone coverages get picked apart last year, and Rossi has made the adjustment back to the coverages the program has had a ton of success with in the past. I also think that Nadir Barnwell has become a very good cover corner this year, and one of the few reliable tacklers this defense has in the secondary.He was a blue chip recruit, so he is only going to get better and hopefully anchor this unit for the next couple years.

Blue Chippers Playing Like Blue Chippers
Speaking of blue chip recruits, Rutgers 4 and 5 star guys are playing like 4 and 5 star guys, finally. After disappointing returns on previous blue chippers like Savon Higgins and Tom Savage, Darius Hamilton, Leonte Carroo, Chris Muller and Barnwell have all lived up to the hype. Hamilton and Carroo are pretty clearly Rutgers' best players on defense and offense respectively, and they both have legitimate cases to being named first team all Big 10 at the midway point of the season.

Muller and Barnwell both had some growing pains as freshman a season ago, but they have both made great strides this year. Muller has been much improved in pass protection, looking quicker and committing less penalties as a result, while still being a powerful run blocker. Barnwell has been Rutgers top cover man, and he has been strong against the run as well.

Stepping Up Oppsite Carroo?
When defenses prepare for Rutgers, they seem to have one thing in mind: stop Leonte Carroo at all costs. This has led to him getting double teamed most of the time, and that theoretically should open the field up for other receivers to do damage. But that was not the case in the early going.

Tightend Tyler Kroft, who was great last year, has not seen a lot of balls come his way, and Rutgers has had trouble finding a #2 receiver with Ruhan Peele yet to play a game and Andre Patton missing four games and being extremely limited in the other two. Andrew Turzilli has emerged as a dangerous deep threat who can "hit home runs" with the secondary rolling over to account for Carroo, and his recent big games will hopefully prevent defenses from focusing al their attention to one guy.

Turzilli's emergence and Patton and Peele hopefully becoming healthy and getting more looks will improve the Knights passing attack and hopefully alleviate the pressure on RU's go to receiver.

Linebckers as steady as ever
There were some articles written recently about Steve Longa's tackle total being down from last year, but his numbers really don't tell the story of how well he has played this year. Teams have tried to pass on Rutgers much more than they have run, in fact only 15 teams have seen fewer rushing attempts against them than Rutgers (and 4 of them have played less games), so naturally that is gong to cause his numbers to drop. Both he and Kevin Snyder have been outstanding in pass coverage and on blitzes this year, and Quinton Gause has been getting into opponent's backfield to make plays. The linebacking group is one of Rutgers' biggest strengths and they have been great so far this year.

At 5-1, Rutgers has gotten off to a great start to the season, and probably have already exceeded expectations (from the outside at least), but they still have a tough road ahead. The Scarlet Knights still have road trips at Ohio State, Nebraska, Michigan State and Maryland to make, as well as home contests against Wisconsin and Indiana. They only need one more win to achieve bowl eligibility for the ninth time in ten years, and I would guess they will be favored in two or three of their last six games. An 8-4 record while going 4-4 in conference play would be a pretty big success in Rutgers inagural Big 10 season. Let's hope they get there.