Opponent Preview: Rutgers
By Matt Sullivan
In the Wildcats’ fifth game this season, Rutgers will come to Evanston to face Northwestern for the first time since 2018. Northwestern was able to sneak away with a win in the last matchup, beating the Scarlet Knights 18-15.
Following season after season of dismal performances in the Big Ten, Rutgers made positive strides last year under the leadership of returning head coach Greg Schiano, who also held the position from 2001-2011. With a 3-6 record in the Big Ten last season, Rutgers tied its program best in conference wins, with victories against Michigan State, Purdue and Maryland. Northwestern is coming off of a stellar season that saw the team reach the Big Ten championship game. The ‘Cats will look to soundly beat a Rutgers team that will stand in the way of a second consecutive trip to the conference championship.
Keys to the Game
- Winning in the trenches
Rutgers has returned much of its defensive line from last season, and with the addition of Temple transfer Ifeanyi Maijeh, the Scarlet Knights’ front four look like they could pose a serious threat. On the other side of the ball, Northwestern must deal with the loss of Gunnar Vogel, a free agent addition to the Bears last season. However, if the Cats can win against Rutgers in the trenches, expect halfback Cam Porter and the Northwestern QB to have some time to let plays develop and tear up the Scarlet Knight defense.
2. Defending the Pass
Noah Vedral is returning at quarterback for the Knights and is looking to improve upon a junior season that saw him tie for third in the Big Ten in completion percentage and fifth in touchdowns. In addition, many of Rutgers’ top receivers will return, and there’s been improvement in the Scarlet Knight offensive line. To combat this, Northwestern’s secondary must be at the top of its game. While the loss of Greg Newsome certainly poses a challenge for this unit, the emergence of Brandon Joseph last season should give the Wildcats a very good chance of locking down the Rutgers passing attack.
Prediction: Northwestern 38, Rutgers 24