Rutgers is scheduled to open its 2020 football season against Michigan State this Saturday at noon. The Scarlet Knights will head to East Lansing, Michigan, to face the Spartans for their first game under returning head coach Greg Schiano.
Rutgers, who started the 2004 season with an upset win against Michigan State during Schiano's first stint on the Banks, opened as 14-point underdogs.
The Spartans have won six straight games against the Knights since Rutgers entered the Big Ten in 2014. Within this spread, Michigan State's average margin of victory has been 27 points, while the Knights have been shut out twice and held to just 7 points four times.
Rutgers has won three games over the past two years, posting 21 straight conference losses since beating Maryland in 2017. Early last season, the Knights fired former head coach Chris Ash and brought in Schiano, who won nine games with Rutgers in 2011 alone, his last season before leaving the school.
In the past year, the new head coach has recruited 12 high school prospects, preparing for the upcoming season by rebuilding certain parts of the team. Earlier this year, Schiano spoke about the team's future.
"I know they're all very excited," he said, according to the Asbury Park Press. "I think I speak for everybody in the building, there's a different kind of energy in the halls right now."
With this in mind, certain aspects of the team look to be readily different for the matchup this time around. Schiano has announced that the Knights will start graduate student Noah Vedral, a transfer from Nebraska, at quarterback. Vedral is a dual-threat player, as he completed 34 of 52 passes for 418 yards while rushing for 106 yards and 3 touchdowns in six games last season.
Vedral will be backed by junior running back Isaih Pacheco, who served as a catalyst for Rutgers' ground game last season with 169 carries for 729 yards and 7 touchdowns. Returning to the Knights are senior wide receiver Bo Melton, who led the team with 30 receptions for 427 yards and 2 scores, and sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Washington, who garnered 18 catches for 272 yards and 1 touchdown last year.
"Every practice is high energy, high tempo," said senior guard Nick Krimin last week, according to the Asbury Park Press. "A lot of the Big Ten football teams kind of huddle up, get the play and kind of mosey on up to the line of scrimmage. But with us, we're kind of building that stamina. Get a jump on people, play fast, play physical and score a lot of points this year."
The Spartans, under newly signed head coach Mel Tucker, look to stifle the Rutgers' efforts. The team will have quarterback Payton Thorne, who also signed on to the program just a few months ago, lead the offense. Returning is Elijah Collins, Michigan State's lead tailback who carried 222 times for 988 yards and 5 touchdowns last season.
The Spartans boast an experienced offensive line, with seven players returning in starting positions. Defensively, though, Michigan State lacks an experienced secondary. They look to alleviate this with Tucker, who had previously served as a defensive backs coach for Ohio State.
After months of training because of an extended season postponement, both teams will look to start with a win.
"Coach Schiano, he’s a good friend of mine," Tucker said, according to The Only Colors. "I have a lot of respect for him. He’s an outstanding football coach, a great man and a proven winner. I’m really happy to see him back in the Big Ten. Shout out to Greg — I know that he worked really hard in preparing his team. It’s going to be an exciting time on Saturday."
For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.