The 2020 season saw a bunch of Big Ten football teams that are usually bad thrive and a bunch more that are usually great struggle. But with a proper season expected this year, one Big Ten team may find repeating last year's success a lot harder.
In a recent piece for 247Sports, college football analyst Nick Kosko asserted that Rutgers has the Big Ten's toughest schedule this coming year. He said that while they could start out 3-0 against their non-conference opponents, their Big Ten lineup is brutal.
Kosko pointed out that they have five absolutely brutal games against Northwestern, Penn State, Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Playing their first Big Ten game against Michigan in Ann Arbor won't help their momentum either.
"Can Greg Schiano's team get to November and not sink? That'll be the week to week mindset in 2021 against a packed schedule in the Big Ten," Kosko wrote. "There's a chance the Scarlet Knights will be 3-0 heading to Ann Arbor for their Big Ten opener and from there, it's a considerably difficult path to a division crown. Among the toughest games, Rutgers plays Northwestern, Penn State and Indiana on the road and hosts Ohio State and Wisconsin. We're projecting the Scarlet Knights will be an underdog in each of those five contests."
The 2020 season saw Rutgers win three games against Big Ten opponents for only the third time in their Big Ten tenure. They finished the season 3-6, with a better record than both Michigan and Michigan State.
While Rutgers still have a long ways to go before they're challenging for bowl game spots again, 2020 was an important stepping stone. It was Greg Schiano's first year back with Rutgers since leaving in 2012, and he got the team off on the right foot.
But one can easily make the argument that last year's COVID-19 chaos played a big role in opening the door for Rutgers.
With 2021 being more like a normal college football season, we'll find out quickly if Rutgers' improvements were a mirage or a sign that they're building something good.
Does Rutgers have the toughest schedule in the Big Ten?