Orlando Sentinel college insider Matt Murschel has ranked all 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 125 to our projected No. 1 team.
Today at No. 33: Rutgers
Coach: Kyle Flood (9-4 second season; 9-7 overall)
2012 record: 9-4 (5-2 Big East; tied for first)
Look back: Rutgers looked like it was on its way to recording the best season in program history, but the Scarlet Knights collapsed during the second half of the schedule in 2012. Under first-year head coach Kyle Flood, Rutgers opened the year with seven consecutive wins, including big victories at Arkansas and at home against UConn and Syracuse. But after the perfect start to the season, the Scarlet Knights dropped four of their final six games, including a three-point loss to Louisville in the regular-season finale and an overtime loss to Virginia Tech in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Offensive starters returning: 6
Offensive starters lost: 5
Defensive starters returning: 4
Defensive starters lost: 7
Key losses: LB Khaseem Greene, CB Logan Ryan, DL Scott Vallone, LB Steve Beauharnais, WR Mark Harrison, RB Jawan Jamison, TE D.C. Jefferson, S Duron Harmon, OL R.J. Dill
Top returnees: OL Antwan Lowery, OL Kaleb Johnson, WR Brandon Coleman, RB Savon Huggins, QB Gary Nova, DL Jamil Merrell, LB Jamal Merrell
Strengths: Rutgers has one of the most athletic and dangerous receivers in the country in Brandon Coleman. He had 43 receptions for 718 yards and 10 scores in 2012. The Scarlet Knights hope they are solid on the defensive line with Jamil Merrell and Marcus Thompson on the ends. Merrell had 5.5 sacks last season. After giving up less than one sack per game, eighth-best in the country, Rutgers returns four of five starters on the offensive line. The unit includes all-conference performers Antwan Lowery and Kaleb Johnson.
Weaknesses: The Scarlet Knights were among the best defenses in the country last season, ranking 10th in total defense and fourth in scoring defense, allowing just 311.6 yards and 14.15 points per game. They lost seven starters, including two-time Big East defensive player of the year Khaseem Greene and CB Logan Ryan, who left early for the NFL. Rutgers will look to rebuild, but likely won't be as strong in 2013. The passing game struggled with Gary Nova under center, averaging just 208.5 yards through the air. Nova had almost as many picks (16) as touchdowns (22) and he'll have to fight off others for the starting job. Even with Jawan Jamison in the backfield last season, Rutgers managed just 121.4 rushing yards per game.
Outlook: It could be a difficult season for Rutgers in 2013 as they move into the American Athletic Conference and try to replace several top players from a standout defense. If the Scarlet Knights can maintain steady production on that side of the ball, they have a chance to challenge for a top spot in the conference. With a solid offensive line and Coleman lined up on the outside, there are glimmers of hope on offense. But a schedule that includes road trips to Louisville, UCF, SMU and UConn and a home date with Cincinnati doesn't allow room for error.
Aug. 29 at Fresno State
Sept. 7 Norfolk State
Sept. 14 Eastern Michigan
Sept. 21 Arkansas
Oct. 5 at SMU
Oct. 10 at Louisville
Oct. 26 Houston
Nov. 2 Temple
Nov. 16 Cincinnati
Nov. 21 at UCF
Nov. 30 at UConn
Dec. 7 USF