Playing in the Big Ten isn’t easy. But what’s even harder is being the school in the Big Ten that every other Big Ten team can’t wait to play. That’s likely the situation Rutgers will find itself in this season, as the Scarlet Knights are expected to be among the worst teams in the conference.
Last season, Rutgers won just two games in conference, one against a Wisconsin team missing Frank Kaminsky, and another against Penn State in what may have been the worst game ever played. So how’s the team’s schedule look this season? Since the team only produced a graphic of their home slate, here’s a link to their entire schedule.
If that was too confusing, here’s a quick list of their conference games.
- Home: Indiana, Iowa, Penn State, Purdue
- Away: Maryland Michigan Northwestern, Wisconsin
- Both: Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State
Things will be tough right off the bat, as the Scarlet Knights face something of a murderer’s row in their first three games, playing Indiana at home before facing Wisconsin and Maryland on the road. The Badgers aren’t expected to be as good as last year, but both the Hoosiers and the Terapins could be among the best teams in the country. Unless they catch an injury break like the one last season with Kaminsky, things could get ugly fast.
Unfortunately for Rutgers fans, it won’t get much easier from there. A Jan. 9 contest at home against Nebraska could be very winnable, but after that, Eddie Jordan and company play their next five against Ohio State, Purdue, Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State. The Purdue and Iowa games are at home, and while you can never count anybody out, it wouldn’t be surprising if Rutgers goes 1-8 during that stretch.
It’s hard to tell how much tougher Rutgers home slate will be than its road one, since they struggled both at the RAC and away from it last season. Still, the fact remains that the Scarlet Knights have yet to win a conference game on the road in their time in the Big Ten. That will hopefully change this year as the games against Minnesota, Nebraska, Illinois and Northwestern are all winnable, though it’s worth pointing out they went 0-5 against those schools last season.
Honestly, before Rutgers can think about winning more games in the Big Ten, it’ll have to learn how to at least compete in them. Eleven of its 16 conference losses last season were by double digits, including four that were by more than 20 points. The athletic department will want to see some improvement this season, but before the wins start flowing the competition will have to be there first.
Of course, there’s no way to know just yet how the Scarlet Knights will look in conference play. The team’s roster went through plenty of changes in the offseason, and it remains to be seen how young players like freshman guard Corey Sanders perform. That being said, it is hard to imagine Rutgers making a lot of noise this season. That doesn’t mean they can’t be competitive, but fans may need to wait at least another year before more wins start coming.