The Scarlet Knights of Rutgers University blew college football away by making a move that no fan of the team could have ever predicted ten years ago. On November 20th, 2012, the university officially announced that they would be moving into the Big Ten Conference in the sport of football.
This is coming as an enormous move, seeing as a mere ten years ago, Rutgers went through a 1-11 season, continuing a long time history of disappointment. However, they have slowly come into the world of college football, making a name and gaining recognition for themselves as the years have gone by. They surely did not finish last season the way they would have wanted, but it was by no means a sign of decreased quality of play for the program. They have been impressive in recent years, climbing from a program with few proud fans to a team with national recognition.
They have certainly shown in the past decade that they are capable of playing in the same league as the big names in the NCAA. Now, they’ll have to prove it in 2014, when they enter the Big Ten. The real question is not if they can play though; it’s if they can win.
Playing well in the Big East does not guarantee that Rutgers will be successful in the Big Ten. Each team in the conference plays eight conference games in the Big Ten every season. This could mean trouble for Rutgers, who has failed to play well against ranked teams these past few seasons. They have played well against the unimpressive likes of: Howard, Temple, and Army. Not to take away from Rutgers’ nine wins last season, they just have not played teams of the same quality as the Big Ten in recent years.
Among those eight conference games (and discounting the University of Maryland, who is also joining the Big Ten in 2014), the Scarlet Knights will have to play against teams like Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State, and Nebraska. These teams are for the most part consistent national powerhouses, and the Big Ten conference has 27 National Championship teams (based on who is in the conference now), compared to the Big East’s 6. The competition in the Big Ten calls for a team that can compete with the like of the SEC, which seems to be the Big Ten’s main competitor in the chance for a National Title. Whether Rutgers can play against these teams is yet to be seen.
Rutgers is 9-26 all-time against Big Ten teams (excluding a 4-6 record against Maryland), and has yet to play Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue or Wisconsin in a single game. In 2014, they will play Michigan, Penn State, Indiana, and Wisconsin at home, and Ohio State, Nebraska, Michigan State, and Maryland away. That’s some serious competition for their first year in the conference.
This move to the Big Ten is positive for Rutgers’ football program in the sense that it will bring in mass media coverage to the university and funnel millions of dollars into the program, two things that are invaluable tools for building a significant program. But, Rutgers is going to struggle to succeed in this conference for a good period of time. Until they can compete with the recruiting of teams like Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan State, they will struggle to beat these teams who have size, strength, speed, and outright talent over them.
There is hope for Rutgers as a football program, and they have proved that in recent years. They have been impressive in the past couple years, and the program shows glimmers of massive potential. However, despite that promise, success in the Big Ten is still a long way down the road for the Scarlet Knights.
Posted by Big Red Report's Josh Harvey