Iowa Football

Iowa football look ahead: Rutgers, man

Between finances and a vacuum in the tradition department, this doesn't make any sense, it just doesn't

Rutgers head coach Chris Ash leads his team onto the field before a 2016 game. (USA TODAY Sports)
Rutgers head coach Chris Ash leads his team onto the field before a 2016 game. (USA TODAY Sports)
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Rutgers, man.

 
It’s not financially equipped to be in the Big Ten. The school spent more than it brought in on sports in 2017, leaving a $2.3 million operating deficit, per NJ.com. The kicker is this: Rutgers athletics received $21.32 million in direct institutional support from the school and another $11.77 million in student fees, also according to NJ.com.

One of the nation’s most heavily subsidized athletic programs competes in the same division with Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. And Michigan State (why not, let’s throw the Spartans in there).

Of course, there’s a facilities deficit. The combined winning percentage of all Rutgers teams in the Big Ten since 2014-15 is .260 (177-514-13 record).

There is a deeply detailed post on Rutgers athletics’ finances here from NJ.com. The Big Ten advanced the school on its future conference payouts. This, of course, puts a dent in Rutgers’ future conference payouts, and Rutgers won’t receive a full financial share from the Big Ten until 2027.

Rutgers, man.

Rutgers coach

The Scarlet Knights head coach is Chris Ash. In case you don’t know by now, he’s from Ottumwa, went to Drake, coached at Iowa State.

He’s in charge of the football, and that’s not a pretty ledger, either.

Rutgers skill players

Rutgers will have a QB. All teams do. Maybe just don’t quite ask who it might be. Ash was non-committal on the topic coming out of spring.

Door No. 1 is Artur Sitkowski. He started as a true freshman last season. For Rutgers. It went like you’d think. Sitkowski threw four TD passes and 18 interceptions. Against Maryland, he went 2 of 16 for 8 yards with four picks. That’s a pass efficiency rating of 12.5.

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Boston College transfer Johnny Langan might have a shot, but he’s not eligible yet. Texas Tech graduate transfer Carter McLane is eligible. He announced his transfer after spring, but he spent a lot of last season at Texas Tech and had ankle surgery. He did open the season as Tech’s No. 1.

Running back Raheem Blackshear returns. He led the Knights with 586 rushing yards last season (and had a team-high 44 receptions). Top receiver Bo Melton had 28 catches last season.

Former Iowa O-lineman A.J. Blazek, who was named assistant head coach last year after almost leaving for the O-line position with Iowa, left the Rutgers program in January to take the O-line job at North Dakota State.

Rutgers defense

Ash replaced Jay Niemann, now a defensive line assistant with the Hawkeyes, last season and took over defensive calls. Ash hired Andy Buh, who was defensive coordinator at Maryland last season.

Rutgers was 19th in the nation with 186.7 yards allowed. That’s nice, but secondaries don’t win championships, defensive lines do.

The Knights lost seniors Kevin Wilkins and Jon Bateky, who were their best D-linemen. End Elorm Lumor tied for the team lead with 4.0 sacks.

What did 2018 say about 2019 for Rutgers?

It won one game.

Ash is an Iowan and that’s all about resolve and seeing things through. Is Rutgers an impossible job? Given the financial hole and lack of tradition? It’s really difficult to see success here. Frankly, when the college football world goes through TV bidding again sometime in the mid-2020s, Rutgers probably isn’t in the Big Ten.

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Right? This can’t continue, right? This isn’t sustainable, is it? It can’t be.

Super hot, possibly relevant take on this game that’s 100-something days away: Hawkeyes will win. If it’s 14-7 again, be nervous about the season. If that’s the score, as it was in 2016, somehow, Iowa didn’t punch in. Or it doesn’t matter because it’s at Iowa State the next week and the emotions will be flowing like the Busch Light.

Hawkeyes Look Ahead

Sept. 7 vs. Rutgers at Kinnick Stadium

Week before: Should be a soft opening for 2019 with a matchup against Miami (Ohio), which doesn’t have a QB right now. Difficulty is in the eye of the beholder with Iowa’s schedule, but this is a tricky part, especially in September, before the Hawkeyes are fully formed.

Week after: The Cy-Hawk at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Sept. 14

The TV time on the Cy-Hawk is kind of up in the air when the game is in Ames. It’s been a morning, late afternoon and night kickoff in recent years.

On the horizon: The first of two bye weeks (yes, it’s one of those years), Sept. 21

For Rutgers

Week before: UMass at HighPoint.com Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.)

On the horizon: Bye week

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Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Game: Sept. 7 vs. Rutgers

Coach: Chris Ash (7-29 and 3-24 in the Big Ten, fourth season at Rutgers)

2018 record: 1-11, 0-9 in the B1G East Division

Scoring offense: 13.5 points per game (14th in B1G, 130th nationally — that’s last in the country, people)

Total offense: 266.3 yards per game (14th B1G, 128th nationally — the Sidney table from “Animal House,” you’re not getting in this frat)

Scoring defense: 31.4 points allowed per game (13th B1G, 89th nationally — Nebraska was 88th)

Total defense: 401.5 yards allowed per game (9th B1G, 69th nationally — Northwestern was 64th?)

Series: Hawkeyes lead 1-0

Last meeting: Iowa won 14-7 at Rutgers in the 2016 conference opener. Brandon Snyder caused a huge fumble that the Hawkeyes turned into the winning points. Goal-line stand helped. Akrum Wadley’s 26-yard TD run held up. (That was the theme of 2016.)

Super early, totally unofficial spread prediction: Iowa -19.5

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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