The college football season gets started tonight. Finally! It seems like we have waited forever for this season to begin. All the hype, all the talks around training camps. Now it’s time to get down to business.
One of the first games in the country will be at Rutgers Stadium where the Scarlet Knights will host the Norfolk State Spartans at 7:30pm.
Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano is entering his 10th season with the Scarlet Knights and has an even 55-55 career record at the school. A win would put Schiano over the .500 mark for the first time since he was 1-0 after winning his first game.
The one and only meeting between the two schools was back in 2007 when Rutgers came away with a 59-0 victory. Rutgers is 6-0 against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference oppoenents, including 3-0 under Schiano. In those three games, the Scarlet Knights have outscored their opponents 142-7.
When Rutgers has the ball
Expect Rutgers to spread the ball around in hopes of finding an identity. The offense has struggled for most of training camp and need a confidence boost. If Rutgers can get off to a quick start, I would expect to see true freshman Jordan Thomas and Jeremy Deering get a lot of action. This is a good game for the true freshman to get their feet wet.
Veteran Joe Martinek (RB), along with sophomores Tom Savage (QB) and Mohamed Sanu (WR) lead the Rutgers offense this season. This type of game is all about finding a rhythm and executing. If Rutgers can do that, they should have no problem moving the football.
Norfolk State returns seven starters to a defense that ranked second in the MEAC last season. They do have experience and talent on the front line with Nose Tackle Josh Turner and Senior Ray Jennings. This is also a team that is deep at the linebacker position.
Defense should be the strong point for the Spartans this season, but they will have trouble against Division 1 opponent Rutgers.
When Norfolk State has the ball
Norfolk State will likely rely heavily on the run early on in the season until their passing game can develop. Play maker running back DeAngelo Branch will see plenty of action. The Spartans have a new quarterback this season, junior college transfer Chris Walley.
The Rutgers defense has looked solid this summer. Are they really that dominant? Or is the Rutgers offense just not clicking at all yet? Tonight is the first test. Rutgers should be able to dominate Norfolk State on this side of the ball.
I expect the defensive line to key in on the running game and shut that down, forcing Norfolk State to throw the ball. This should open up some opportunities for take aways.
While Norfolk State has to replace both kicking specialists, Rutgers returns two veterans at the kicker and punter positions. Teddy Dellaganna could be the Big East’s best punter and a weapon for Rutgers.
The key to watch here will be if anyone steps up for Rutgers. Devin McCourty was a do it all type player and made plays on special teams for Rutgers last season. He is now in the NFL. Who will step up and make some big time plays for this unit? Joe Lefeged may be that guy?
With Mason Robinson taking over the punt return duties, Rutgers may see some production there.
Norfolk State always has some speed in the return game, something to watch for if you are Rutgers.
Keys For Rutgers
- Do not turn the ball over
- Find an offensive rhythm
- Good special teams play
Rutgers 38, Norfolk State 7
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