The Scarlet Knights finished in a three-way tie for fourth place in the Big East in 2009.
Next meeting: The Big East Conference opener Oct. 8, Rutgers Stadium, Piscataway, N.J., 7:30 p.m. ( ESPN).
Last season: 9-4, 3-4 Big East. The Scarlet Knights capped 2009 with a fifth straight bowl appearance and a fourth consecutive win after dousing Central Florida in the St. Petersburg Bowl. It also marked the fourth season in which the Knights have won at least nine games overall. Rutgers is re-hailing itself as the Birthplace of College Football. The first game (Rutgers beat Princeton in 1869) was played there but the school's overall history in football had been largely forgettable until only recently. As good as the Knights have been and as much as those inside Rutgers are kicking tires publicly to alert college football of its success, Rutgers is still in search of its first conference championship and BCS bid. Still, the building job coach Greg Schiano has done simply can't be ignored.
Who's gone, who's back: The key losses on offense include fullback Joe Martinek and receiver Tim Brown, the speedy 1,000-yard All Big East wideout. UConn fans probably are happy to see Brown go. Brown scarred the Huskies at Rentschler Field last season. Tackles Anthony Davis and Kevin Haslam are huge losses on offense. Linebacker Ryan D'Imperio was a monster and this team will feel the loss of the outstanding corner and kickoff returner Devin McCourty.
The key returnee is quarterback Tom Savage. He's a big-time quarterback with a live, big-time arm who was pretty electric against UConn in a 28-24 win in East Hartford last year. He was 13 of 24 for 236 yards and three touchdowns. On the season, he completed more than 50 percent of his passes, for 2,200 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The UConn-Rutgers rivalry: It's a beauty. It's such a rivalry that neither side actually wants to admit it is. There is a genuine dislike within and outside the programs. UConn is often compared to Rutgers in terms of climbing the college football ladder. Rutgers has been around a little longer. It holds a 20-9 advantage over UConn since the teams first met in 1940 but the Huskies have only been competing in Big East play since 2004. They beat the Scarlet Knights that year and that's how the border war really started. That win wasn't supposed to happen for UConn. When it did, the tone began to change. Rutgers won in '05 and '06, lost in '07 and has beaten UConn ever since, including a 12-10 loss in Piscataway in '08. The games have been intense and certainly have a rivalry feel.
What's at stake? Rutgers has been mentioned as one of the schools the Big Ten is eyeing for expansion; UConn, too, just not as much. The Big Ten believes Rutgers can help deliver the New York television market, something it never really has done but Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State playing at Rutgers Stadium would be big hitters. Some say Rutgers football would be a doormat in the Big Ten much like it had been in the Big East for a long time. If the Big Ten wants Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights should plan on showing they belong this season. A league title would go a long way.
The Rutgers Schedule: This is why Rutgers' success over the years has been criticized by those outside the program. Its scheduling has been eye-popping in a disappointing way.
UConn is playing Texas Southern in its second game but it's also playing Michigan and Vanderbilt in nonconference games. Rutgers has the likes of Norfolk State, Florida International, Tulane and Army. Imagine how well those games would draw on the Big Ten Network.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun