Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Rutgers couldn't keep the momentum rolling from 2006. Granted, they had a nice season, but the only special win was against USF while they lost to Maryland, UConn, Cincinnati, and Louisville in the regular season. Now, without Ray Rice, is this still a team that can compete with West Virginia for the Big East championship?
THE OFFENSE: Expect Rutgers to look a lot different offensively. The passing game should become the dominant weapon-of-choice without Ray Rice. Mike Teel is more than capable of leading an offense based on the passing game, too. He didn't play well in 2006, got unbelievably better in 2007, and should have his best season yet in 2008. The who-will-fill-Ray-Rice's-shoes sweepstakes should come down to two sophomores. Mason Robinson and/or Kordell Young will win the job. I don't think Greg Schiano will do a dual-RB thing, but it's an interesting thought. Both guys are young with some talent and while neither will become the player that Ray Rice became, they're both solid prospects. Aiding the passing game to make it potentially downright prolific are a fantastic set of WRs. Tiquan Underwood should be the main wideout in the offense. He's a tall guy with great possession skills but he's also very fast. Kenny Britt is a bit larger than Underwood and probably shares similar speed. He's another great athlete. The blazer Tim Brown should fill the third slot on the depth chart but if Dennis Campbell could improve his receiving skills, he could possibly move in that spot. Kevin Brock is a good pass-catching TE and he did manage to pull off the impossible by filling in for Clark Harris. Anthony Davis at LT is an NFL draft pick waiting to happen. He's huge and has great footspeed along the offensive line and can just shove people around. He should be the leader of the offensive line that was hit pretty hard by departures.
THE DEFENSE: Losing Eric Foster hurts. He was unquestionably the leader of the defensive unit but Greg Schiano has a plan to replace him. First, Pete Tverdov has to stay healthy at DT. He made a number of starts and should be okay. The move of Jamaal Westerman to the interior surprised me considering he's the leading sacker for the last two seasons. Westerman was a pass rushing terror and now he'll have to mimic his production up the middle. This also means he has to get better against the run. Rutgers will have a solid group of LBs this fall with Manny Abreu getting to finally start. He redshirted last season and should make a pretty big splash. Ryan D’Imperio was hurt last season and couldn't play, but the hope around Piscataway is that, being fully healthy, he could potentially breakout and become a superstar LB. Rutgers was 5th in the nation in pass defense for a reason and Courtney Greene will come back to defend the pass at FS. Greene is probably the best player on the team and while his S counterpart, Ron Girault, is gone, he should have just as good of a season as his junior campaign. Jason McCourty and Devin McCourty, both brothers, will be back for another season at CB. These guys work together well, not something a lot of brothers can attest to.
Sept. 1 Fresno State
Sept. 11 North Carolina
Sept. 20 at Navy
Sept. 27 Morgan State
Oct. 4 at West Virginia
Oct. 11 at Cincinnati
Oct. 18 Connecticut
Oct. 25 at Pitt
Nov. 8 Syracuse
Nov. 15 at South Florida
Nov. 22 Army
Dec. 4 Louisville
The opening game on Labor Day weekend versus Fresno State is getting a lot of attention, but the first three games are three pretty tough challenges for Rutgers. The Big East road games might be too much to ask for a Big East title with West Virginia, Cincy, Pitt, and USF all on the road.
Don't Even Think About It:
Ehhhhh.....Maybe....: @ West Virginia, @ Cincinnati, @ USF
Good/Probable Shot At It: Fresno State, North Carolina, @ Navy, Morgan State, UConn, @ Pitt, Syracuse, Army, Louisville
THE OUTLOOK: Rutgers' ceiling and best case scenario right now would be 9-3. They just aren't that great as last season showed and now they'll be without one of the best players to ever come through Rutgers, Ray Rice. That pretty much dries up the running game and although Robinson/Young won't be bad, they won't be Ray Rice. The defense will still be pretty good, but they didn't seem like they could put anything together last year. They're still solid and should compete this year. Rutgers won't repeat 2006, but they're here to stay. I'll say 7-5 once again.
BOWL GAME?: International Bowl
Delaware Blue Hens
Delaware had a great season a year ago beating Navy and making it all the way to the national championship game. After a beatdown against Appalachian State, head coach K.C. Keeler will be starting from square one offensively without RB Omar Cuff and QB Joe Flacco. With those losses, will the team be ready to make another run in the playoffs?
THE OFFENSE: Who will replace Joe Flacco? Well, it comes down to sophomore Sean Scanlon or Ohio State transfer Rob Schoenhoft. Right. It's not even a QB controversy as Schoenhoft comes in as one of the higher ranked QBs from his class and he figured he'd never see the field at Ohio State. What's interesting is how K.C. Keeler has dealt with transfers. Andy Hall came in from Georgia Tech and Joe Flacco got buried behind Tyler Palko at Pitt. Both of these QBs took the Blue Hens to championship appearances (Hall won) so hope is that Schoenhoft will do the same. The RB situation is a little more dicey without Omar Cuff. But, Phillip Thaxton was being groomed a year ago for this very situation and should be ready to break out and have a big year as a sophomore. However, outside of the West Chester game last season, he didn't do all that great. But, I guess I can chalk that up to being a freshman, right? The Blue Hens are stacked at receiver giving Rob Schoenhoft something to work with. Aaron Love is the best WR on the team (pictured) and should be a legitimate candidate for all-CAA this season. Mark Duncan was second on the team in receiving yards per game as a sophomore and should improve upon that mark. Kervin Michaud is now a senior and was second on the team in receptions per game. The offensive line has to block a little bit better ranking 60th in sacks allowed.
THE DEFENSE: If the defense was a wee bit better, I think Delaware would be looking at a national title a season ago. There were a few games where the team was exposed defensively in the tournament, notably Northern Iowa and Appalachian State. They ranked 50th in the FCS in total defense and 57th in scoring defense, something that a young defense a year ago might get better at. The defensive line returns Matt Marcorelle and Jullian James at DE. These guys led the team in sacks last season and Marcorelle is even getting attention from some NFL draft people. He's only going to be a junior this year too. Erik Johnson led the team in tackles and is the top returning LB. Walter Blair will return also as a junior. This was another spot on the defense with a ton of underclassmen seeing extensive playing time. The DBs were so young a year ago and I'm just going to list you all of the guys coming back: Anthony Walters (sophomore), Fred Andrew (senior), Marvin McKinnie (senior), Anthony Bratton (junior), Charles Graves (junior), Tyrone Grant (sophomore). The secondary ranked 25th last year and should get even better with a ton of crucial parts coming back.
Aug. 30 at Maryland
Sep. 13 West Chester
Sep. 20 at Furman
Sep. 27 Albany
Oct. 4 at Massachusetts
Oct. 11 Maine
Oct. 18 William & Mary
Oct. 25 at Hofstra
Nov. 1 at James Madison
Nov. 8 Towson
Nov. 15 at Richmond
Nov. 22 Villanova
It's not like Delaware can't win 9 games or so with this. The road games are tough against Maryland, Furman, UMass, James Madison, and Richmond, but this is a pretty good team and they're up to the task.
Don't Even Think About It:
Ehhhhh.....Maybe....: @ Maryland, @ UMass, @ Richmond, @ James Madison
Good/Probable Shot At It: West Chester, @ Furman, Albany, Maine, William & Mary, @ Hofstra, Towson, Villanova
THE OUTLOOK: Delaware should be one of the better teams in the FCS. Even though I'm giving them four "Ehhhhh....Maybe...."s, those are a lot closer to the "Good/Probable" than to the "Don't Even". If you catch my drift. The offense may not be as potent without Flacco or, probably more importantly, Omar Cuff, but Rob Schoenhoft has the receivers that Flacco had a season ago one year older. Thaxton will do an okay job, too. The defense should become a lot better than it was a year ago with all of the youth turning into seasoned athletes. They'll get in the FCS playoff picture.
FBS UPSET?: They have a solid shot. Maryland will be tough, but the Blue Hens will give them a battle on the road. I think the Terps may have gotten more than they bargained for. This is definitely one FCS/FBS game to keep an eye on in the opening week and it is televised at 3:30 on ESPNU, opening day.
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