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B1G (sort of) Review and Preview: Rutgers

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A look back at the Scarlet Knights' 2012 season and a look ahead to a final season in the Big East


2012 Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Record: 9-4 (5-2 Big East)

B1G Standing: T-1st overall (with Louisville, Cincinnati, and Syracuse), lost to Virginia Tech in the Russell Athletic Bowl

Offensive Stat Leaders: Passing: Gary Nova: 2695 yards, 22 TDs, 16 INTs... Rushing: Jawan Jamison: 255 att., 1075 yards, 4 TDs... Receiving: Brandon Coleman: 43 recs., 718 yards, 10 TDs

Defensive Stat Leaders: Tackles: Khaseem Greene (136).... Sacks: Khaseem Greene (6).... Interceptions: Brandon Jones (5)

It has been one of the most eventful years in the history of Rutgers athletics. Forget about the controversy within the last week revolving around former men's basketball coach Mike Rice. In the past year, Rutgers lost head coach Greg Schiano to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, saw the elevation of a well-regarded assistant coach, and announced that the university was leaving the Big East to join the Big Ten beginning in 2014.

This season of transition was mostly successful. Although the offense looked Penn State-esque circa 2011 for most of the year, new head coach Kyle Flood's defense was swarming and stifling, leading Rutgers to nine wins and a share of the conference title. The Scarlet Knights got off to a hot start, winning their first seven games, but collapsed down the stretch and lost four of their last six, including their last three.

Included in those final three games were gut-wrenching losses to Lousville and Virginia Tech. In the de facto Big East Championship Game, Rutgers led 14-3 at halftime in Piscataway before Teddy Bridgewater brought Louisville back to life. A brutal Gary Nova interception ended the hopes of a comeback and the program's first BCS appearance, as Rutgers lost a heartbreaker at home, 20-17. In the Russell Athletic Bowl, Nova and the offense again struggled, but Rutgers was up 10-0 through three quarters. The Hokies rallied, though, as cornerback Antone Exum intercepted Nova to set up the tying score in the fourth. One overtime field goal later (and a miss by Rutgers kicker Nick Borgese), and Virginia Tech completed their comeback, winning 13-10.

Despite its difficult ending and offensive struggles, there were plenty of positives to be taken from this past season. Redshirt sophomore Jawan Jamison beat out highly touted second year man Savon Huggins for the starting tailback job and reeled off a 1000-yard season. The defense was outstanding, with linebackers Khaseem Greene and Steve Beauharnais leading the charge. In the Russell Athletic Bowl, they held Virginia Tech to three rushing yards. Yes, really. THREE.

A Quick Look Ahead

Recruiting: Rankings - 247Sports: 52 - Rivals: 45 - Scout: 31

Once again, all sorts of variation between the services about Rutgers' overall ranking, mostly because the class was stocked with three star athletes. Rutgers did sign four star defensive back Nadir Barnwell, its consensus top recruit, as well as local guard prospect Dorian Miller, and Hicksville, NY pro-style quarterback prospect Chris Laviano.

Way too early prediction: 9-3 (5-2 Big East)

Rutgers 2013 Schedule

Looking at the scheduled in a vacuum, Rutgers can win 11 games next year. It's two most difficult games, opening with Fresno State and a mid-October Thursday night clash with defending Sugar Bowl Champions Lousville, are on the road, but the friendly confines of Piscataway should provide plenty of protection for the Scarlet Knights.

Last year, the entire program, from the administration down, was in transition. This year, however, the team itself is. Flood had to replace both coordinators and did so - former Kansas State head coach Ron Prince takes over on the offensive side, while Dave Cohen, last year's linebacker coach, gets promoted to the big chair on defense. Prince will have to work some magic for the offense to be more effective - Jawan Jamison declared early for the NFL after the bowl game, leaving Savon Huggins and plenty of depth questions at tailback, and the fairly ineffective Gary Nova is still (for now) the team's quarterback.

On defense, Cohen takes over a unit that took a tremendous hit from graduation and the NFL. Linebackers Greene and Beauharnais (the Mauti and Hodges of Rutgers) both move on, leaving Jamal Merrell as the lone remaining starter (think Glenn Carson, Penn Staters). Kevin Snyder (the Mike Hull comparator in this exercise) is expected to make a bigger impact as well. Meanwhile, the defensive backfield loses Logan Ryan, a fantastic corner, to the NFL, and the front four loses defensive tackle Scott Vallone. That's a lot of talent to replace from a unit that carried the team to nine wins and a share of a conference title last year. If Rutgers has any hope of repeating that feat, one side of the ball will have to raise its game considerably.

As an aside, I'd encourage anyone in the tri-state area to attend the April 27th spring game - the university has announced plans to benefit the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund.

For more information on the Scarlet Knights, head to On the Banks.

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