Iowa opens up Big Ten play by hitting the road to Piscataway, N.J. for a date with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The Hawkeyes are 2-0 all-time against Rutgers, winning at Rutgers in 2016, 14-7, and then beating the Scarlet Knights, 30-0, in 2019.
“It’s our first Big Ten game, needless to say that’s important. First road game and then another night game. All those three things factored in, you know, it’s a little bit different here, and then playing a team that’s off to a really good start. Rutgers is playing well with a 3-0 record right now, you know, and they’re playing well, so they certainly have our full attention.
“I’ve known Coach Schiano probably 25 years, 24 years. Something like that, over two decades, and have been very familiar with his career for quite a while. One thing about him, he’s a tremendous football coach, outstanding person, and has done a really good job in a short amount of time there. So, anything from the last time we played them, you know, it’s a whole different ballgame right now,” Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz said of Schiano and Rutgers.
In order to help us break down how the third rendition of this series will play out, we welcome in managing editor Kristian Dyer of Rutgers Wire to share some of his thoughts on the Scarlet Knights’ season so far.
On Rutgers' 3-0 start
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Hawkeyes Wire: Rutgers is off to a great start at 3-0 with wins over Boston College, Wagner and Temple. What’s been the secret to the Scarlet Knights’ success?
Kristian Dyer of Rutgers Wire: Well, this wasn’t exactly a grueling out of conference schedule, but it was solid for sure. Rutgers beat a bowl eligible Boston College team on the road and then last week, ground out an ugly win at Temple.
The secret? Well, in the second half at Boston College, the Scarlet Knights’ revamped offensive line, featuring three transfer portal players, simply wore down their ACC opposition. If Rutgers is going to get to six wins this season, that line will have to hold up.
On the Scarlet Knights' No. 11 total defense
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Hawkeyes Wire: Defensively, Rutgers is off to a fantastic start to 2022 on that side of the football. Who are some of the players to watch defensively and what’s impressed you about what you’ve seen from the Scarlet Knights’ defense?
Kristian Dyer of Rutgers Wire: I really like Michigan transfer Aaron Lewis, who can inside or outside on their front-four. He has All-Big Ten potential. In the secondary, Max Melton has proven to be a real ballhawk. He should be an NFL Draft when he declares.
On Rutgers' offense against Iowa's defense, the Scarlet Knights' quarterback situation
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Hawkeyes Wire: Offensively, Rutgers has its hands full against what looks like one of the Big Ten’s best defenses once again in Iowa. How can Rutgers find enough scoring and offense against the Hawkeyes? How do you feel about the quarterback situation entering this game?
Kristian Dyer of Rutgers Wire: I like Evan Simon, a former three-star recruit who is in his redshirt sophomore season. As the only healthy scholarship quarterback, it is reasonable to think he starts and/or gets significant snaps on Saturday.
He has a strong arm and makes good reads plus has impressive footwork. Simon has a lot of nice tools and generally makes smart throws down the field.
Gavin Wimsatt, the four-star who enrolled early last year, is the future of the program. He needs to work on his understanding and reading of the game but his arm strength and athleticism is impressive.
Since this is Noah Vedral’s last season, the future is certainly solid with Simon or Wimsatt under center for Rutgers. They both can get the job done at the Big Ten level.
On Rutgers' 19-game Big Ten home losing streak, importance of this game
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Hawkeyes Wire: Dating back to 2017, Rutgers hasn’t won a Big Ten home game. From that standpoint in the two teams’ respective league openers, how important is winning this game to the Scarlet Knights?
Kristian Dyer of Rutgers Wire: For Rutgers, this game is a measuring stick for sure. This year number three under Greg Schiano. Last year was a strong recruiting class and Rutgers has been good in the transfer portal in terms of filling holes. Schiano has always been about development, so showing a pathway to playing time and being competitive in the Big Ten is important for his sales pitch.
If Rutgers is competitive deep into this game, it would be an important signal to those on the fence about Rutgers. This year, most fans had four or five wins penciled in. Rutgers, to their credit, has already reached half of what is needed for bowl eligibility.
On Greg Schiano becoming Rutgers' all-time winningest head coach
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Hawkeyes Wire: Similar to Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, Greg Schiano just became the winningest coach in Rutgers history. What’s the reception been like for coach Schiano and how fitting is it for him to take over as the program’s all-time winningest coach?
Kristian Dyer of Rutgers Wire: Schiano was the perfect hire at the perfect time for the Scarlet Knights. Upon taking the job, he went so far as to say that if Rutgers had been in the Big Ten when he was offered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job, he would have never left.
The fanbase loves Schiano, even if some like to nitpick the offense, which has been lackluster the past three years. He’s a Jersey guy, which in a state of transplants sandwiched between New York City and Philadelphia means a lot.
So far, Schiano has been given the resources needed to hire a Big Ten level staff, grabbing an offensive coordinator from Oklahoma State and a defensive coordinator from Minnesota.
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