It is time to take a last look back at how each Big East team fared in 2011 with season-ending report cards.
Up today: Rutgers
Offense: Rutgers was improved in just about every statistical category this past season on offense -- despite playing musical chairs at quarterback for the umpteenth time under former coach Greg Schiano. Scoring offense rose from No. 8 in the Big East in 2010 to No. 4, scoring about 6.4 more points a game. Total offense rose from No. 8 to No. 6, with more than 40 yards more per game. Passing offense was up, averaging more than 40 yards more a game. Receiver Mohamed Sanu set Big East and school records for single-season receptions (115) and the offensive line was hugely improved, giving up 31 fewer sacks than a year ago. The two problems continue to remain the same -- inconsistency at quarterback and in the run game. Rutgers ranked No. 8 in the league in rush offense -- the same as last season. Gary Nova and Chas Dodd alternated at quarterback. The offense may have been better than a year ago, but nobody is saying it was a juggernaut this season, either. The strength of this team was with its defense.
Defense: Schiano made some strategic personnel moves that paid off in a big way this season, allowing Rutgers to finish No. 1 in the Big East and No. 14 in the nation in total defense. Consider that the Scarlet Knights ranked No. 8 in the league in total defense and rushing defense last season. Schiano decided he would call the plays and move his players around to get more speed on the defense. The biggest shift was Khaseem Greene to linebacker -- a move that ended with Greene being selected co-defensive player of the year. The secondary, which was one of the biggest question marks going into the season, was one of the best in the Big East to rank No. 1 in pass defense. Cornerback Logan Ryan really came on strong this season, and Duron Harmon was good at safety.
Overall: Rutgers was the preseason choice to finish last in the Big East, after it went 4-8 in 2010. But the Scarlet Knights beat expectations with their 9-4 season and won their fifth straight bowl game to keep the longest streak in the nation intact. If there was one major blemish, it was an inability to close out the season. With a share of its first-ever conference title on the line, Rutgers choked against UConn, losing six turnovers in one of the worst defeats of the Schiano era. That loss impacted the overall grade, but only slightly. Hard to not give high marks to a team that went from worst to almost first.