When Rutgers hired Greg Schiano last year, the hope was that the former Scarlet Knights coach would get the program out of the basement and back into at least a state of competitiveness. That goal remains to be seen in the long term, but Rutgers won't complain about being 1-0 after beating Michigan State 38-27 on Saturday. In doing so, the Scarlet Knights snapped a 21-game losing streak in Big Ten play dating back to Nov. 4, 2017 -- a 31-24 win over Maryland.
How Rutgers got its first conference win in nearly three full calendar years isn't hard to figure out. The Spartans turned the ball over a whopping seven times and were stopped two more times on fourth downs. That's nine turnovers total, and Rutgers responded with 14 points off of takeaways. Given the final score, it's obvious Rutgers needed those takeaways in order to win.
It's not like the Scarlet Knights won because they were clearly outclassing the Spartans. Rutgers had 278 yards of total offense at just under four yards per play. It also had nine penalties for 66 yards. Michigan State was just as bad -- 1.6 yards per rush, 7-of-17 on third downs, etc -- so this wasn't a clean game by any means. Rutgers is still a team with a lot of room to improve before it can even begin to be competitive in the Big Ten. The win is great for a program that desperately needs one, but it's not like the ceiling has lifted.
It took Chris Ash 12 games to get a Big Ten win. Took Greg Schiano just one.— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) October 24, 2020
Conversely, Saturday's loss showed that first-year coach Mel Tucker has a lot of work to do in East Lansing. He was already behind the 8-ball even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Former coach Mark Dantonio didn't leave a lot in the cupboard, and the February hire meant Tucker couldn't get his foot in the door for Michigan State's first recruiting class. Then, with the lack of spring practices, disrupted offseason workouts, extended recruiting dead periods and the will they/won't they drama of the Big Ten season, it's hard to envision many FBS programs in a worse spot. The offense is dysfunctional, the offensive line can't block and the defense looks slow. There's a lot to fix and this was the most winnable game on the schedule.