Rutgers football will open up the 2023 season on Sunday against the Northwestern.. After the exit of former head coach Pat Fitzgerald for a hazing scandal, the Wildcats are projected to finish with one of the worst records among Power Five schools.
For Rutgers, this Week 1 matchup is a must-win game for the program, especially given the difficulty of their remaining schedule.
Rutgers has a 10-4 record in season openers under head coach Greg Schiano, which includes wins the past three seasons at Boston College (2022), against Temple (2021), and at Michigan State (2020). The Scarlet Knights have a 101-40-11 home opener record in their program’s history.
Schiano and the Scarlet Knights had just one Big Ten win last season and will look to improve their conference record in 2023. Fans are optimistic that the Scarlet Knights can qualify for a bowl bid this season, but the path to a bowl game starts on Sunday.
Scroll down to check out five things to look for from Rutgers in the Week 1 matchup against the Northwestern.
Growth from quarterback Gavin Wimsatt
Gavin Wimsatt hits Max Patterson for the touchdown and the lead.
— Rutgers Football (@RFootball) April 29, 2023
Gavin Wimsatt’s growth this offseason got noticed on the practice field, but now it is time to transition that growth into an official game. He struggled as a redshirt freshman last season, finishing with 757 passing yards, five touchdowns, seven interceptions, and a 44.8 completion percentage. The former four-star recruit, Wimsatt, is entering his third season with the Scarlet Knights and has a boost of confidence entering the 2023 season.
Strong performance from the Rutgers defense
— Kristian Dyer (@KristianRDyer) August 29, 2023
The Scarlet Knights’ strength is their defense, and with a veteran core returning, the Rutgers defense can anchor their team in 2023. The Rutgers’ depth on defense will lead to massive improvements. The Rutgers’ defense has matured and can be a top-five unit in the Big Ten this year. In 2022, the Scarlet Knights were ranked No. 13 on the defensive end among the Big Ten Conference, holding their opponents to 29.25 points per game. If the defense can perform at a high level, then this team has a chance to be bowl-eligible.
Rutgers running back Kyle Monangai will lead the team in rushing
Kyle Monangai ran through the defender on the way into the endzone 😳 pic.twitter.com/b2nMAyHmKK
— Def Pen Sports (@DefPenSports) September 4, 2021
In 2022, Rutgers running back Kyle Monangai had to step in after a season-ending injury to Samuel Brown V. The junior running back recorded 109 carries with a career-high 445 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Monangai gave Rutgers a spark on the ground in 2022 and will look to continue in 2023. Against Northwestern, Monangai will be looking to lead Rutgers in carries, even though Samuel Brown V is back from injury. Brown V is healthy and has plenty to prove, but with Monangai’s game experience, the Scarlet Knights might rely on Monangai to lead the rushing attack early in the 2023 season.
Growth from Rutgers wide receiver group
HIGHLIGHTS CALIFORNIA (PA) AT SHEPHERD (FOOTBALL) 9-17-22
THE VULCANS SCORE 23 UNANSWERED POINTS BUT FALL SHORT IN OT. NOAH MITCHELL BECOMES SCHOOL'S ALL-TIME PASSING LEADER WITH TD PASS IN 2ND QUARTER. WR JaQUAE JACKSON TIES SINGLE RECEPTION RECORD THAT STOOD SINCE 1968. pic.twitter.com/otzVs91VP0
— CUTV (@CUTV_PA) September 18, 2022
The Rutgers’ wide receiver core is an unproven group in the FCS and the Big Ten. With experienced assistant coach Dave Brock leading their development, Division II All-American JaQuae Jackson, FCS all-conference receiver Naseim Brantley, Chris Long, and Isaiah Washington will be heavily involved in the 2023 season. Slot receiver Christian Dremel won the Most Improved Offensive Player award during spring camp, while Rashad Rochelle is battling for reps in the slot. The Rutgers’ receivers have speed and versatility, but which one will step up on Sunday against Northwestern?
Rutgers linebacker Deion Jennings will lead the team in tackles
Good Vibes Podcast ft Deion Jennings.
Full podcast dropping Thursday! pic.twitter.com/LQyMOFRFlG
— Rutgers Football (@RFootball) May 10, 2023
In 2022, Rutgers linebacker Deion Jennings led the team with 91 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss, ranking seventh in the Big Ten with 8.3 tackles per game. Jennings and linebacker Tyreem Powell (Fourth on the team with 70 tackles in 2022) will anchor the Scarlet Knights defense. The senior linebacker is projected to have a stellar season with the Scarlet Knights after receiving Preseason All-Big Ten honors by Phil Steele (Third Team) and Athlon Sports.