Key stretch: Rutgers

It's almost July 4th, which means college football is right around the corner. As we count down to kickoff, we're taking a look at the pivotal three- or four-game stretch in the slate for each Big Ten squad.

We're finishing up the series today with a double-dip. It only seems right to have Maryland and Rutgers on the same day in the week in which they officially joined the Big Ten. Let's examine the Scarlet Knights' key stretch:

Key stretch: Michigan (Oct. 4), at Ohio State (Oct. 18), at Nebraska (Oct. 25), vs. Wisconsin (Nov. 1).

Breakdown: Toto, we're not in the American Athletic anymore. Welcome to the Big Ten, Rutgers. You get a four-game stretch against the two biggest traditional powers in league history, plus crossover games against the Huskers and Badgers. That is as potentially as brutal a stretch as any team in the Big Ten will face this season, especially with trips to the Horseshoe and Lincoln's Memorial Stadium. Does Rutgers have a chance to win any of these games? Well, Michigan certainly was highly beatable last season, if that is any consolation. The other home game seems like a bad matchup, given Wisconsin's mammoth size on the offensive line vs. the Knights' smallish defensive front. This stretch might be more about pure survival than anything else for Kyle Flood's team.

Prediction: Maybe Rutgers will surprise us this season. We don't really know for sure how playing in the Big East/American Athletic will translate over to the Big Ten, and the Scarlet Knights do have some athletes. The best chance here is for an upset of Michigan in a night game at High Point Solutions Stadium. But even that seems iffy. So we'll be pessimistic about this league newbie's chances and say Rutgers goes 0-4 in this stretch. Anything better would mean a cause for celebration in Piscataway.