We’re now five years into the rutger experiment in the Big Ten Conference. You already know how we, and many other Big Ten fans, feel about them.
That being said, I’ve come to terms with the move since it gives me carte blanche to complain about Jim Delany and because it gives IU a good chance of at least one conference win right out of the gate most seasons. It’s weird to think “hey, at least IU isn’t perennially the worst football school in the B1G anymore,” but we have rutger (and Illinois) to thank for that. You don’t have to believe in a dynasty, but it’s hard to tell how the situation for rutger football can improve, at least in the short-term.
When rutger joined the conference, they at least had been competitive in football, with bowl berths in most years between 2005-14. But here’s the thing about rutger in 2019: they’re not good. Chris Ash remains coach despite the team’s 1-11 record last season, in which they let Kansas(!) put up 55 points on them. Kansas, of course, was so terrible last season that they fired their coach and brought Les Miles back from the grassy pastures. Ash now has the second hottest seat in FBS football next to Clay Helton at USC, and if he can’t turn it around, where does rutger go from here? Do they go the Edsall/UConn route and re-hire Greg Schiano? Do they try another hotshot coordinator? A MAC coach? Maybe bring Rex Ryan back to Jersey—at least he’d be entertaining.
What to Expect from the Scarlet Knights
Three Names To Watch
I ran out of time to look at the roster while writing this preview (not true), but if I had to guess who some of the notable rutger players were, here’s what I’d tell you:
- Jason “J-Dawg” Smith, walk-on WR: J-Dawg (that’s the name on the back of his jersey) caught the eye of rutger recruiters when he set a Guinness world record for “most consecutive fist pumps in under one minute” at the Jersey Shore in Seaside Heights last summer.
- Cornelius Warner Vanderbilt IV, 7th-string QB: A 7th-generation Princeton legacy, Vanderbilt was all set to join his ancestors at the school, but fearing a backlash after the Lori Loughlin scandal, Princeton refused to let him and his 2.4 prep school GPA in despite his father’s insistence of funding a new locker room. So instead he’s at rutger, learning “valuable teamwork lessons” as a backup QB that he’ll definitely talk about in his Goldman Sachs interview two years from now.
- Chris Christie, OL: Now that his governing days are over, Christie is back to see if he’s still got it on the gridiron. During training camp, he has already challenged multiple coaches to fights, and told others he could do a much better job of coaching the team if he felt like it.
How IU Can Win
Don’t blow it on Homecoming, for once!
We have been over IU’s tortured history on Homecoming many times. Usually the game is either a complete blowout to a mediocre team (see: Iowa last year), or a hard-fought loss after several head-shaking decisions down the stretch (see: the Michigan OT loss in 2017, the rutger loss after being up 25 in 2015, or Minnesota in 2013 where I still can’t believe Kevin Wilson called a lateral with 10 seconds to go). Would be nice if that bad luck could go the other way, for once!
This game, like all Indiana-rutger games, and all Homecoming games for that matter, will inevitably be stupid and closer than it should be. But if there’s any year for IU to break the homecoming curse, this is the one.
If all goes to plan (which it never does), IU could be 4-2 after this game, with Maryland, Nebraska, and Northwestern all winnable and on the horizon. Could the Hoosiers be 7-2 heading into the brutal Penn State-Michigan-Purdue homestretch? #9WINDIANA lives, baby. Indiana 31, rutger 24