Gerry DiNardo didn’t see this one coming in the preseason. He didn’t see it coming a month ago. But the Big Ten Network analyst thinks that Rutgers at Minnesota on Saturday has the potential to be an intriguing game.
One that the former Notre Dame standout and college head coach believes is anyone’s games.
Both teams come into this game with a very different feel. Off a bye two weeks ago, Rutgers (4-3, 1-3 Big Ten) beat Indiana 24-17 on Saturday. Minnesota (4-3, 1-3 Big Ten) struggled a bit last weekend in a 45-17 loss at a very good Penn State team. The Golden Gophers have now lost three straight games, tumbling out of the polls.
Playing at home and with their backs against the wall, Minnesota should come out of the tunnel on Saturday afternoon fired up and looking to make a point.
For DiNardo, it is important to look at where these teams were in August and where they are now to assess this game.
“So let’s go back to the bus tour. We go to both those schools, obviously. Minnesota looks like one of the best teams we’ve seen. They’re going to be in the Western Division hunt. Rutgers is making steady progress,” DiNardo said on the Big Ten Network.
“Let’s go back three weeks ago, four weeks ago, Minnesota is the second, the third best team in the conference. And now you have Rutgers who is in the bottom of the East, playing a team that a couple of weeks ago was in the top of the West.
“That’s a good chance to bash East and West but I’m not going to do that. But it does show shows that we’re not in balanced conferences, our divisions are unbalanced.”
As for the game itself, one of the intriguing storylines is Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano against Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck.
In 2011, Fleck was a wide receivers coach at Rutgers under Schiano. He then followed Schiano to the NFL where he was on his staff while with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“But you know, this looks very good for Rutgers. Now, remember – Greg Schiano was one of PJs Fleck’s mentor so there’s going to be emotion; there is going to be the teacher playing the student. And I don’t think a lot of teachers like losing to their students.
“So there’s a little bit of psychology there. But we never thought this game at the beginning of the year was gonna be a toss-up, although I don’t think that people have set the odds think it’s a toss-up. But I think we think it’s a toss-up and everyone that follows the game closely.”