College football betting: Why Rutgers could be worth a shot this season

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·Betting analyst
·3-min read
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For the first time in a long time, optimism is swirling around Rutgers football. Greg Schiano's return provided immediate hope to a program that had lost 21 straight conference games. 

It was clear a new culture was being established from the first game of the season at Michigan State. Rutgers was outscored 182-16 in its five conference road games in 2019. Without the benefit of any spring practices, Schiano pulled off the upset in his debut as an 11-point underdog. 

Rutgers continued to make teams pay for taking them lightly throughout the season. The Scarlet Knights fought Michigan to three overtimes, and notched road upset wins at Purdue and Maryland. 

With a more typical offseason, Schiano will build off the foundation he established in 2020.

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano speaks during Big Ten football media day on July 23. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano speaks during Big Ten football media day on July 23. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Rutgers OVER 4 (-105)

Rutgers will continue to be a tough out under Schiano. Installing a winning culture is the first step, but it will take a few years of recruiting before Rutgers can make any significant moves in the standings. 

QB Noah Vendral leads an offense that ranked 75th in scoring and outside of the top 100 in most advanced passing metrics. The Scarlet Knights won games by creating chaos. The defense's top-40 havoc rate forced 19 turnovers in nine games. The pressure Schiano's defensive front creates is sustainable, but turnovers tend to be less predictive year after year.

The offensive execution of converting those takeaways into points is where Rutgers' roster limitations reveal themselves. The Scarlet Knights were 22nd in the FBS in yards per point but tied for 113th in yards per play. The disparity between the two statistics highlights the offense's failure to produce down to down, despite the defense positioning them in prime scoring position. 

For Rutgers to take a step forward this season, OC Sean Gleeson will need to help Vedral become a more efficient passer. The continuity will be there as the offense returns all 11 starters.

Is there a road to five wins for Rutgers?

Coming off a surprising 3-6 season, the win total for the Scarlet Knights is set at four games at BetMGM. Rutgers would need to finish at least 5-7 in order to cash a bet on the over. 

The schedule is perfect for a rebuilding program. It opens with three non-conference opponents (Temple, Syracuse, Delaware), giving Schiano a real shot at a 3-0 start. 

Without having to count on Schiano to pull off more upsets as a double-digit underdog, there are two key games that could push Rutgers to five wins. The home finale versus Maryland and a mid-October road trip to Northwestern are both winnable games. I have serious concerns about Hunter Johnson and the offense at Northwestern. It's fair to think Schiano's defense can force big plays to tilt the turnover margin in Rutgers' favor.

I expect there to be some variance with Rutgers, but I believe there is a legitimate path to a 5-7 season. The odds are -105 for Rutgers to go over four wins at BetMGM. With the total set at a flat four, there is also the potential of a push limiting our risk. Rutgers would have to win three games or less for the bet to be graded as a loss. If they can continue to pull off a few upsets against conference opponents, that puts us in an even better position to cash the over. 

Rutgers returns 21 of 22 starters on both sides of the ball and Phil Steele ranks their special teams unit No. 1 in the conference. The soft non-conference schedule combined with the continuity in returning production makes me comfortable enough to take a shot on Schiano.

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