Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Northwestern Wildcats Game Preview

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Saturday sees Northwestern hosting Rutgers in a match-up that isn’t the most exciting possible on paper. However, it is one with a lot of historical connotation. These are the two Big Ten programs, ovet the course of history, which have provided us the worst squads of all time in 1981 northwestern and 2019 Rutgers.

This is a topic we’ve looked at before, and hey, why not doing it again here.

Saturday, Oct. 16

11 a.m. CT – Northwestern vs. Rutgers (Homecoming) (WGN Radio AM-720; B1G Network). Rutgers is favored -2 with an over/under of 47

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The 1981 Northwestern team went 0-11, with a nine game Big Ten schedule. They were outscored 82-505 overall, and 75-425 in conference play. Over a three week span, against Purdue, Michigan and Wisconsin, they were outscored on aggregate 125-0.

2019 Rutgers went 2-10, but matched the 0-9 league mark. They were outscored 440-159 overall, and 355-51 in league play. If you don’t want to do math, we did it for you. 1981 Northwestern was -350 in point differential on the league season, -423 as a whole.

2019 Rutgers can “boast” of being -282 for the campaign, -304 in Big Ten play. Whose worse? I think you’re kind of splitting hairs at this point.

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Rutgers Preview

This will be the meeting in Evanston since 1989, and Ryan Field is the only conference venue the Scarlet Knights have yet to visit as a member of the Big Ten. The Birthplace, like Maryland, were halfway to bowl eligibility before fall even officially started.

However, they’re stuck on 3-3 right now, and it remains to be seen just how much they have truly improved this season. Yes, they have improved from the dumpster fire that they have been in recent years, but it isn’t marginal improvement or substantial?

Their current coach, Greg Schiano, seems to be only person alive who has been able to make it work in Piscataway, so maybe he’s the guy to fix it, eventually, again?

Northwestern Preview

While there is plenty wrong with NU this season, if you have to start somewhere, it’s run defense. The Wildcats just can’t stop the run, and all the other issues flow from that. Their success comes from stopping the run, controlling the ball/not making mistakes, forcing/waiting for the opponent to make mistakes and capitalize on them.

This is the formula that has earned them two of the last three Big Ten West division titles. Without a consistent, stout run defense though it just doesn’t work. Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald discussed trying to fix it:

“Gotta be better on the perimeter. We’ve given up the edge on a number of occasions, and not being able to fit it properly, and that’s starts with us as coaches schematically, and looking at things and how we’re teaching it, how we’re fitting it and what we’re asking our guys to do.

“Across the board we’ve got to be more physical as a defense. We talked a lot about that here since the season started but we haven’t been able to put it all together.”

This aspect of the team has been abysmal so far, but if they can somehow clean it up, this season might be a little bit salvageable. This game is winnable, as are the meetings with Illinois and Minnesota. It’s still possible for NU to maybe finish 5-7 this year, believe it or not.

Prediction: Northwestern 20, Rutgers 17

This could be ugly, but I really think Fitzgerald will get the kids to respond to the embarrassment that comes with being home underdogs to Rutgers. I also think they’ll draw inspiration from the return of the 1995 and 1996 Big Ten title teams for Homecoming.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune.

He co-hosts the After Extra Time podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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