Schedule analysis: Rutgers

The season’s creeping closer and closer. But until it officially starts, we’ll be looking forward and analyzing every Big Ten team’s 2014 schedule.

Up next: Rutgers

Nonconference schedule (with 2013 records)

Aug. 28: at Washington State (6-7)

Sept. 6: Howard (6-6)

Sept. 20: at Navy (9-4)

Sept. 27: Tulane (7-6)

East Division games

Sept. 13: Penn State

Oct. 4: Michigan

Oct. 18: at Ohio State

Nov. 15: Indiana

Nov. 22: at Michigan State

Nov. 29: at Maryland

Crossover games

Oct. 25: at Nebraska

Nov. 1: Wisconsin







Gut-check game: Welcome to the Big Ten, Rutgers. Now good luck in the conference opener against Penn State, which boasts the 22-2 all-time edge. The two teams last squared off in 1995, but the Nittany Lions have been beating Rutgers in regional recruiting for years. The Scarlet Knights could make a big splash with a win here, but PSU won’t make it easy with Christian Hackenberg at the helm.

Trap game: If the Midshipmen could outscore the Hoosiers and their passing attack last season, then Rutgers can’t exactly mark the Navy-RU game as an automatic win, either. Navy finished 9-4 last season and should be even better in 2014. The Knights boast a great defensive line, but the triple-option offense isn’t easy to defend. This might end up being a close one.

Snoozer: Howard is just an FCS team – and a mediocre one at that. If Eastern Michigan could outscore the Bison by double digits last season, then Rutgers should be able to make quick work of them this season. Maybe there’s a chance Rutgers looks past Howard and focuses on the following week’s opponent in Penn State. But even that shouldn’t matter. This isn’t the 2007 Appalachian State team; Rutgers should cruise.

Nonconference challenge: Rutgers won’t have an easy time in the season opener, as it travels to the West Coast and takes on a so-so Pac-12 team. Navy might actually be the better nonconference opponent, but Washington State is no slouch either. The Cougars boasted the No. 4 passing attack in the nation last year and could test Rutgers’ defense. Gary Nova & Co. better be ready to punch through a bad defense; Washington State put up at least 38 points in six games last season.

Analysis: Rutgers really drew the short straw this season when it came to its conference opponents. No team in the Big Ten has a harder schedule, and even its nonconference slate isn’t overly easy. If Rutgers can reach six wins, it would be a great season – one that would go a long way in showing the Knights belong in the B1G. More than likely, though, anything over five wins would be pushing it.