Northwestern (0-0) at Rutgers (0-0), Satruday, noon ET (CBS)
Line: Rutgers by 6½, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Series record: Rutgers 3-2
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
This is a chance for two of the Big Ten's less celebrated programs to simply get a win. Both struggled last season and things got worse for Northwestern this summer with the disclosure of a hazing scandal that led to the firing of long-time coach Pat Fitzgerrald and the naming of David Braun as the interim coach.
A win would help the Wildcats quiet the noise and equal the total from last season (1-11). Rutgers coach Greg Schiano returns for the fourth year of his second tenure with the Scarlet Knights and some fans want more than a few wins a year after finishing 4-8. The Scarlet Knights hope to win early since the last month of the schedule is stuffed with nationally ranked Ohio State, Penn State and Iowa on the docket.
Schiano believes he has talent and experience on all levels of the Rutgers defense, led by lineman Aaron Lewis, linebacker Tyreem Powell and cornerback Max Melton. The Wildcats are not saying whether Cincinnati transfer Ben Bryant, Brendan Sullivan or Ryan Hilinski will start at quarterback. The Northwestern O-line is basically new with senior Josh Priebe having the most experience. However, he is coming off an ACL injury and is moving from guard to tackle.
If Rutgers can dominate on defense, the Scarlet Knights have a real chance against a relatively inexperienced team.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Northwestern: RB Cam Porter is the leading returning rusher this season. The senior baked up NFL draft pick Evan Hull last season and ran for 286 yards and two touchdowns. He also had seven receptions for 50 yards. He was highly regarded heading into 2021 but missed the season due to an ACL and meniscus tear. He might have needed last year to get back on track.
Rutgers: QB Gavin Wimsatt. A four-star prospect when he committed to play in New Jersey, he has all the skills, a big arm, the ability to run. He lacks expereince. Wimsatt started six games last season, including the last five. He completed 65 passes for 757 yards and five touchdowns. If new offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca can get him going, the Scarlet Knights can be a lot more competitive.
FACTS & FIGURES
Rutgers (1869) and Northwestern (1884) are two of the nation's oldest programs. Rutgers played host to Princeton in the first college game. ... Northwestern opens the season against a Big Ten opponent for the fifth time in the last six seasons. The Wildcats are 18-7 in their last 25 season openers. ... Braun will make his head coaching debut after spending the previous four seasons as defensive coordinator at North Dakota. ... Northwestern has won two straight against Rutgers.. The Scarlet Knights have won their last three openers, beating Michigan State, Temple and Boston College. This is the first season since joining the Big Ten in 2014, they are opening at home with a league game.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll