Rutgers football finally catches a break from Big Ten with season restart schedule

The Big Ten just released a football schedule that does not put the screws to Rutgers.

Greg Schiano standing in front of a building: Rutgers coach Greg Schiano's new schedule is more favorable than expected.

© Chris Faytok | NJ Advance Media for Faytok | NJ Advance Media for
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano’s new schedule is more favorable than expected.

2020, man.

Saturday’s protracted reveal of the Scarlet Knights’ third schedule in two months – did FOX get tips on how to milk things from CBS’ March Madness selection show crew? – was about as kind to Rutgers as possible. Short of moving Ohio State to the West Division, there is not much more the conference could have done to make things manageable in Greg Schiano’s first season back at the helm.

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It’s unlikely the Big Ten did this out of the goodness of its heart. In fact, television executives likely inadvertently gave Rutgers the biggest assist of all during the process (more on that below). But the end result is the same. Rutgers has reason for hope with the league-only slate brought on by the Big Ten’s reversal on playing amid the coronavirus pandemic, and it is nowhere near as daunting as the version the Scarlet Knights faced before the controversial decision to postpone the season in August.

a group of football players posing for a picture: Head Coach Greg Schiano leads the Scarlet Knights out of the tunnel for the Rutgers vs. Cincinnati game in Piscataway, NJ, on Saturday, November 19, 2011.

© Frances Micklow/The Star-Ledger Sent DIRECT TO SELECTS Saturday, November 19, 2011 16:17:31 2644 200…
Head Coach Greg Schiano leads the Scarlet Knights out of the tunnel for the Rutgers vs. Cincinnati game in Piscataway, NJ, on Saturday, November 19, 2011.

Here are some thoughts on the schedule:

Hot opener: It is a little early to declare Rutgers-Michigan State a rivalry. There is definitely heat between the programs following the Spartans’ recent recruiting success in New Jersey, though, and you get the feeling Schiano and Mel Tucker may be locking horns on the trail frequently in the years to come. Throw in the backstory of the 2004 game, which was Schiano’s first big win with the Scarlet Knights, and the fact no one really knows what to expect when two overhauled teams with new coaches meet.

Murderers’ Row is broken up: The traditional brutal November that became a brutal September has, at least for one season, disappeared. Rutgers has a buffer game between its matchups with Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State, instead of having them stacked on top of each other like with the first conference-only slate. Rutgers also gets to play at home the week after going to the Buckeyes, which is a subtle but important feature of the schedule following what will likely be a rough day.

Weather break: While we do not know where the ninth game will be played on Dec. 19, Rutgers has to be pleased with the fact it will be home for its first December game and at Maryland for its second. The elements at that time of year should not be too rough in this part of the country. You cannot say the same about many of the league’s Midwestern cities.

Make this permanent: The Big Ten is likely going to need to overhaul its future conference schedules after all of this summer’s mayhem. Here’s to hoping Rutgers-Maryland can become the annual season finale at some point in the not-too-distant future. It just makes too much sense.

Champions Week concern lingers: Rutgers kept Illinois and Purdue as crossover matchups, and the Big Ten says it will avoid rematches in Week 9. If the league sticks to that vow, the Scarlet Knights could finish last in the East and end up playing the West’s fifth-place team. And given how much parity the West may have this season, that could be Iowa. It is not something to worry about now, but it is easy to see how this could become a sore spot for Rutgers down the road.

Some whine with your corn: The Nebraska fanbase and press corps are up in arms over the Cornhuskers’ loaded schedule, acting as if the Big Ten invented it out of thin air as payback for the Big Red Revolt. But they should direct their ire at the conference’s television partners.

There was not a television subcommittee of the return to play task force for no reason. The Big Ten took the original nine-game conference slate for each school and dropped one crossover matchup for each program, and it clearly collaborated with ESPN, FOX and BTN.

Nebraska’s crossovers were Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers this fall. Which ones do you think the TV guys who are writing the fat checks to keep the Big Ten afloat wanted to remain on the slate? The TV guys also likely demanded the conference deliver marquee matchups early in the season as to get those games (and their ratings) in the bank before a second wave of COVID-19 could knock the operation back off the rails.

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James Kratch may be reached at [email protected] Tell us your coronavirus story or send a tip here.


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