Last week it became clear that the Rutgers Scarlet Knights are not as good of a team as the media expected them to be. With bowl hopes all but dashed, a talented Buffalo team comes to Piscataway in what could be the most important game of head coach Chris Ash’s career on the banks.
Saturday’s 55-14 beat down in Kansas could easily be called the worst loss of Ash’s career and when they return home for the second home game of the season, the Scarlet Knights will not be playing in front of a happy crowd.
That being said, winning this week at home against the Bulls will be no small task, as Buffalo opens as a 5.5 point favorite on the road. Buffalo has already beaten Temple and Eastern Michigan, who upset the Scarlet Knights in Piscataway a season ago.
Last weekend, Rutgers played with little energy and looked completely unprepared in Lawrence. That game was never going to be an easy victory for the Scarlet Knights on the road, but Kansas should not have been able to put more points on the board against Rutgers than Ohio State did a week prior.
The Scarlet Knights’ defense has looked absolutely gassed over the last two weeks. Reports are now stating that Blessuan Austin will be getting a knee surgery this week and is unlikely to return this season. If Austin does not get back on the field this season, it would be a fatal blow to a defense that already has so little depth. Austin was a preseason all-conference selection and was at the top of Rutgers’ depth charts, despite tearing his ACL last season.
The Buckeyes gave Rutgers all it could handle and the Scarlet Knights never fully recovered before facing the talent of Pooka Williams Jr., the most exciting freshman that Kansas has had in many years.
It is now be up to Isaiah Wharton to fill Austin’s shoes. Wharton had four total tackles against the Jayhawks, including one for a loss. He also forced a fumble and blocked a pass.
While these numbers are not astronomical, they were among the best on a team who did not look prepared to play last weekend. If Wharton really gets going – he had six tackles the week before at Ohio State – it would be a huge asset to a struggling defensive unit.
The defense will not get a break this weekend when the Bulls come to town. Buffalo quarterback Tyree Jackson is projected to be a selected in the opening night of the 2019 NFL Draft and has not disappointed thus far this season.
Jackson has completed 64 of his 98 passes, thrown 12 touchdowns, averages 263 yards in the air per game and has thrown a single interception all season. He is hard to get to and his dominant offensive line has done a great job of keeping the pocket open for Jackson to work in; the Bulls offensive line has yet to give up a sack this season.
The offensive side of the ball for Rutgers is a complete and total mess. Artur Sitkowski went 7-for-19 with three interceptions in the first half of the game before being benched for redshirt senior Gio Rescigno, who went 7-for-12.
Last weekend was supposed to be a preview of what Sitkowski looked like against an equal opponent; Texas State was supposed to be a low-stakes blowout while Ohio State was supposed to be a blowout in the other direction.
Even so, the true freshman looked completely lost against a defense that was not as good as Sitkowski made them appear. The cause of such a pitiful performance is unknown; whether Sitkowski did not have enough time to prepare during the week or he was still feeling the effect of Nick Bosa’s big hits remain to be seen.
If Rescigno had gone out and blown it away – or even led a single scoring drive – he could have won the starting job. Rescigno looked just as lost as Sitkowski did and did not make a strong enough case to wrestle the starting job out from Sitkowski’s hands.
It is still too early to pull the plug on Sitkowski; hopes for a bowl game have been completely shattered so it’s time for Ash to build towards the future and let Sitkowski get valuable experience for 2019.
Chuck Harris, Buffalo’s star defensive end, will look to cause trouble against a Rutgers offense filled with uncertainty. Harris has nine sacks in three games and is absolutely ruthless on the offensive line. Rutgers can not take a single play off, or Harris will make it pay.
Prediction: Rutgers 24, Buffalo 21
Gambling this season? Want to try it just to see what it feels like? Go to MyBookie.ag and use promo code ARMCHAIR25 at checkout. They will match your deposit dollar for dollar. Putting in $100? You’ll now have $200.