Well, that didn’t take long. In Greg Schiano’s first season in his second go round as Rutgers football coach, the team has already won as many conference games as they did in Chris Ash’s entire tenure (3+ years). They accomplished that feat by virtue of a thrilling overtime victory on the road at Maryland, 27-24 in which former soccer player Valentino Ambrosio booted the tying field goal as time expired in regulation and then kicked the game winner in overtime.

The thrilling victory lifted their record to 3-5 and while that might not be a great record for some schools, considering where the Scarlet Knights have been recently, it is an obvious sign of progress. Under Ash, Rutgers had an awful overall record of 8-32 with a Big 10 mark of 3-26; they joined the conference in 2014. Keep in mind that Rutgers plays in the tougher division of one of the best conferences, and all three wins came on the road.

Rutgers Maryland Football

They have a chance for one more victory in conference next weekend when they play Nebraska in a crossover game as part of the Big 10’s “Champions Week” that pits teams with similar records from the two divisions against each other (Rutgers is in the Big 10 East and Nebraska is in the West).

During this conference-only season, the Scarlet Knights have more wins than traditional powers like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Michigan State and as many as Penn State and Minnesota. With the truncated season (because of the pandemic), teams don’t have to have a winning record to be bowl eligible, so while it might still be a long shot, Rutgers could be bowl bound; emerging from the darkness of the past few seasons to that level would be incredibly impressive.

As far as rising to prominence (at the risk of getting ahead of ourselves), for inspiration, you need look no further than Big Ten East rival Indiana which after years of being a conference doormat, found the right coach and is now a factor on the national stage. There have been people who have said that Rutgers didn’t belong in the Big 10, but Greg Schiano is showing them that the Scarlet Knights can keep up with the big boys.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.

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