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Friends of the Blog: Rutgers Q&A

Zuzu, the Rutgers writer from Off Tackle Empire, and Aaron, the site manager of On The Banks, join us to talk Scarlet Knights.

Maryland v Rutgers Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

On the first weekend of November, the Badgers travel east to the ancestral land of Wisconsin Running Backs...New Jersey. UW hasn’t played at Rutgers since 2014, but has beaten the Scarlet Knights all three times they’ve played since RU joined the Big Ten.

The Badgers will be coming off of a bruising game against Iowa and will finish with three games against B1G West opponents, but an improving Rutgers squad will not be one to overlook. Since Wisconsin doesn’t play Rutgers often, we enlisted the help of a pair of Rutgers bloggers to give us all of the info we need before the game.

Our first guest is Zuzu, who is the Rutgers corespondent at Off Tackle Empire and currently in grad school at Southern Cal. She has, uh, not switched allegiances while switching coasts.

Here are her answers to our questions!

Who is your player to watch on offense?

Bo Melton is such a stellar WR and he actually makes those catches that big time teams make which is so refreshing and shocking as a Rutgers fan. Also, I love watching him knowing that he’s a Rutgers man through and through with both his dad and mom having played on Rutgers sports teams and his brother, Max, is on the team too at cornerback.

Who is your player to watch on defense?

I mean Olakunle Fatukasi is the only answer here right? He makes TACKLES. Over his career he has 213!!! A defensive psychic. This is his last year and he’ll be an inside linebacker. I’m sad to see him eventually go, but eager to see what his 2021 stats are and where he’ll land in the NFL Draft.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 31 Indiana at Rutgers
Just thinking about how he’s going to make the tackle on this play.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon College Football

Why will Rutgers beat Wisconsin this year?


Oh, that’s a serious question. Look I’m not that drunk on the Schiano 2.0 era to forget that Wisconsin is the B1G West team that has consistently (three times) whooped our Scarlet behinds whenever such a crossover game occurs.

Am I more hopeful we won’t lose embarrassingly under Greg Schiano? Sure. But oh man, y’all are tough. It would be cool to beat you guys our upset that we’re due for. So why will we beat Wisconsin? I don’t know, grit? Jersey spunk? Surprisingly good talent? Good coaches?

Sure would be pretty neat.

God, isn’t Penn State just the worst?

Picture this. You’re college-aged again. Your Rutgers student friend invited you to a night out. You’re just off campus of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. On a long road called Easton Ave. where all the bars and college food options are.

Penn State v Rutgers Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

You get drunk and make your way back to campus because you have to catch a Rutgers bus because your friend’s dorms at another campus. The bus is full of drunk students. Suddenly, someone starts a chant.

A chant familiar to all modern Rutgers students...“Fuck Penn State! Fuck Penn State! Fuck Penn State! FUCK PENN STATE.” We played them six weeks ago and lost badly. The bus full of students doesn’t care. The bus driver joins in. RUPD gives the bus a police escort. Life is at its peak.

Rutgers v Penn State
Zuzu would kick this dude in the neck, I bet.
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Anyway, fuck Penn State. As an academic, occasionally we’ll have some seminar speaker from Penn State visit or some reference to the institution in a scientific context and even then I still say, “Fuck Penn State.”

Thanks for having me!

Our next guest is the longtime site manager of SB Nation’s Rutgers community, On The Banks. Aaron Breitman is a lifelong Scarlet Knights fan and has excellent taste in tv show soundtracks.

Here are Aaron’s answers to our questions!

Who is your player to watch on offense?

Isaih Pacheco has averaged 4.5 yards per carry through three seasons despite running behind arguably the worst offensive line in the Big Ten. With offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson and every offensive starter returning from last season, the new found stability can only help Pacheco.

He is a physical back who can run through contact and became more of a factor in the pass game last season which should develop even more this fall. Rutgers hasn’t had a 1,000 yard rusher since 2012 but even if Pacheco falls short of that mark, I do think he will emerge as one of the best backs in the Big Ten this season.

Who is your player to watch on defense?

Olakunle Fatukasi led the Big Ten in tackles last season and is on three preseason award watch lists, but in terms of a player to watch it’s Christian Izien. The safety has steadily improved every year and he led Rutgers with four interceptions last season, all of which came in the last three games of the season.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 18 Nebraska at Rutgers
Izien wearing No. 0 seems unfair against a team like Nebraska whose QB probably thought it was a target.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

He also had three fumble recoveries. His confidence is growing and should be a regular disruptor and big play stopper at the back of the defense this season.

Why will Rutgers beat Wisconsin this year?

There is plenty of bad karma that Wisconsin has been quietly building over the years in regard to Rutgers and this season it finally catches up with them. After years of poaching New Jersey’s best running backs in Ron Dayne, Corey Clement, Anthony Davis, Jonathan Taylor and now Jalen Berger, the ground game is suddenly halted by Greg Schiano’s defense.

Former Badger Aron Cruickshank runs back a kick for a touchdown and also has a 100+ yard receiving day with a touchdown to make a statement that he was underutilized in the Wisconsin offense. After a pretty easy October slate and coming off a homecoming win against Iowa, the Badgers will overlook Rutgers with a key West showdown against Northwestern scheduled the week after.

Nebraska v Rutgers
::shakes fist:: CRUICKSHAAAAAANK!
Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

The upset of the Big Ten season will leave Barry Alvarez’s face scarlet red after his strong recommendation of Chris Ash to Rutgers, who was awful in every way, finally caught up with him.

God, isn’t Maryland just the worst?

I like crab cakes and am thoroughly enjoying the Mike Locksley era, so I’m not sure I agree Maryland is the worst. Anytime you can hire a coach who went 2-26 at New Mexico, you have to applaud the bravery of the administration in making such a terrible decision and still going through with it despite having that information at their disposal.

Despite having some early recruiting success and some legit talent, the Terps are not ever going to win under Locksley so let’s enjoy this while it lasts. Also Rutgers outdrew their fans during a 21-game Big Ten losing streak, so it’s hard to hate a fan base that doesn’t exist.