By Michael Briggs @MichaelSBriggs on April 24, 2014
Rutgers has been waiting a long time to be admitted to college football's big stage. New Jersey is, of course, the birthplace of college football. Though spirits are high heading into their first Big Ten season, the Scarlet Knights will have their hands full with the transition. Recent success has catapulted Rutgers into the picture, but the 2014 season will be a turning point. Here are five must-watch games in RU's quest to slay the giants.
With an unresolved competition at QB heading into the spring and a tough schedule ahead of them, how Rutgers opens their season against Washington State could be a clear indication of their direction in 2014. Kicking off on the west coast for the second straight season should toughen up the Scarlet Knights. The Cougars are coming off their first bowl game since 2003 and will be motivated to keep trending upward. This should be a close one.
Fast forward to the Scarlet Knights' season finale, where RU will tangle with fellow Big Ten newcomer Maryland. Though these programs have only faced off nine times, their proximity on the East Coast figures to turn them into natural rivals for the conference, especially on the recruiting trail. A bowl game could also be on the line for both schools, which would be a bigger achievement than usual given the jump in competition level.
Rutgers will travel to Lincoln for the first time in their history this year, and you would be hard-pressed to find a more challenging environment the Scarlet Knights have recently played in. However, the shock factor should have dissipated by then, given RU will receive a rude awakening to the Big Ten road environment the prior week at Ohio State. This game's position on the schedule will serve as a swing game for Rutgers' bowl chances.
Traditional college football powers have rarely stepped foot on Rutgers' campus. These are the types of experiences the Scarlet Knights, and their fans, have been craving since Jeremy Ito sent Louisville packing in 2006. Michigan is not expected to play for a National Championship in 2014, but a win over the conference's trophy wife in their first year, under the lights in the annual "Blackout" game, would signal Rutgers' official arrival.
Rutgers would love for Penn State to become a true rival of theirs. Head coach Kyle Flood has only referred to PSU as "the team for Pennsylvania." Geographically, it makes a lot of sense. Though they have largely given them little attention in the past, Penn State is being forced to play Rutgers. RU's first-ever Big Ten game sounds like the setting for a budding rivalry, but can Rutgers make Penn State believe this rivalry matters?
Michael Briggs is a college football writer for Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelSBriggs or add him to your network on Google.
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