This is the 11th in a 12-day series looking at Michigan State’s opponents this football season and their chances against the Spartans.
Week 11: Rutgers
Time and Date: TBA, Nov. 22
Venue: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing.
Scarlet Knights at a glance
Coach: Kyle Flood (third season, 15-11)
Last season: 6-7 overall, 3-5 American Athletic Conference
Returning starters: 14 (nine offense, four defense)
Preseason magazine predictions
Athlon: 4-8 overall, 1-7 Big Ten (7th, East Division); ranked No. 73 nationally
Lindy’s: 7th Big Ten East; ranked No. 74
Sporting News: 7th Big Ten East
Why they’ll beat the Spartans
The Scarlet Knights, potentially, have a go-to running back (Paul James) and, more certainly, a top-tier wideout (Leonte Carroo), along with their entire starting offensive line returning. They hired a big-time new offensive coordinator in Ralph Friedgen — ironically, formerly the head coach at the other incoming Big Ten school, Maryland. It’s an offense capable of keeping pace in the Big Ten. And, on a given day, some places, that might be enough.
Why they won’t
East Lansing, this season, probably isn’t one of those places. And Damon Dowdell — who infamously threw a pick-6 to a defensive lineman the last time these teams met, a decade ago — is no longer the Spartans’ quarterback (though Connor Cook has made a couple of those throws, too).
Mostly, Rutgers’ defense was atrocious last season, ranked near the bottom of the country against the pass, while allowing 30 points a game. There is experience in this secondary, if there’s any confidence, but it isn’t likely to hold up in the Big Ten this season. The Scarlet Knights also have issues at quarterback, where two-year starter Gary Nova was benched late last season. He’s expected back under center this year.
The biggest problem for Rutgers in this game — other than MSU being home for senior day — is its own schedule. Rutgers plays Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Indiana in the five games leading up to its date with MSU. It’s hard to imagine the Scarlet Knights will be in a good place.
A venture into the new Big Ten, at Maryland on Nov. 15
Prime-time showdown with Buckeyes on Nov. 8
Desperate Wolverines visit on Oct. 25
A dangerous visit to Indiana on Oct. 18
Spartans look to avoid letdown at Purdue on Oct. 11
No easing into Big Ten play, as Huskers visit Oct. 4
Impressive new coach adds intrigue to Wyoming’s Sept. 27 visit
New coach, same EMU Eagles visit on Sept. 20
A telling test at Oregon on Sept. 6
Rose Bowl encore begins with Friday night lights vs. Jacksonville State on Aug. 29