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2017 Big Ten football preview: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Rutgers redshirt senior wide reciever Janarion Grant (1) takes the field during a game against Eastern Michigan. Credit: Courtesy of Jeffrey Gomez | The Daily Targum

Location: New Brunswick, New Jersey

2016 record: 2-10 (0-9 Big Ten)

Head Coach: Chris Ash

2017 record so far: 0-2

All time record vs. OSU: 0-3

What’s happened so far in 2017

Rutgers opened the year with a 30-14 defeat at the hands of Washington, last year’s Pac-12 champion. The Scarlet Knight defense held the Huskies to just 10 points in the first half, but Huskies’ junior quarterback Jake Browning threw for two second-half touchdown passes to put the game out of reach. The next week, Rutgers clashed with Eastern Michigan hoping to steer the season in the right direction, but fell to the Eagles 16-13. Rutgers’ offense struggled, especially on third down, converting on only 4-of-16 attempts.    

Impact Player

If a play is needed on offense, look no further than fifth-year senior wide receiver Janarion Grant. In his junior season, Grant had three kickoff returns for touchdowns — Grant’s five-career kickoff returns are tied for ninth in NCAA history — while adding another through a punt return. Last season, through the first four games, Grant averaged 164 all-purpose yards per game until sustaining a season-ending injury against Iowa on Sept. 24. He was granted eligibility for a fifth year, due to the injury. Grant had a solid game against Eastern Michigan, catching eight passes for 91 yards. Grant is a dynamic talent, and if he can stay healthy, it should help the Rutgers offense as well as its special teams.

Strengths

Rutgers’ strengths on offense rely on a few key players in addition to Grant: running backs Gus Edwards and Robert Martin. These two seniors seem to be a bright spot in an otherwise inconsistent offense. Both have combined to rush for more than 100 yards in each of the first two games this season.

Weaknesses

Inconsistencies on offense and defense were a big part of why the Scarlet Knights found themselves at the bottom in almost every statistical category last season. They only averaged 15.7 points per game, which was good for 127th out of 128 teams. Coach Chris Ash started his second season by bringing in former Minnesota coach Jerry Kill as offensive coordinator. Rutgers scored 14 points versus Washington and dropped just 13 points against Eastern Michigan. The defense wasn’t much better than the offense last season as it allowed 37.5 points per game, 116th-most in the FBS. in defense. However, the Scarlet Knights held Washington to 30 points and Eastern Michigan to 16 points.

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