Rutgers' Greg Schiano On 'A Different Michigan Team,' Wolverine RBs, More
Rutgers head football coach Greg Schiano pushed for the Scarlet Knights to join the Big Ten during his first stint in Piscataway (2001-11), and it finally came to fruition in 2014, after he had left to become the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' head man.
When he took the job again ahead of the 2020 campaign, the program hadn't won a Big Ten game since 2017, but that changed in the opener against Michigan State. The Scarlet Knights won three conference games last season, much improved from the prior eras, and have gotten off to a 3-0 start in the non-conference slate in 2021, with wins over Temple, Syracuse and Delaware.
But Schiano says he hasn't "turned anything around," at least not yet, acknowledging that this weekend's contest at undefeated Michigan (3-0) to open league play will tell his team, and the college football world, a lot about where they are in their climb back to relevance.
"We’ve had a good start to our non-conference schedule, but what I keep talking about is Rutgers in the Big Ten. Now, we start playing the Big Ten schedule," Schiano said. "That’s what it’s all about.
"We have to go and show that we belong, and we haven’t done that yet. We won a couple games, but as I’ve said before, I don’t feel like 2020 was real. I feel like you didn’t get a real picture of every team.
"But this is real. We’re going out to play against a really, really good football team that has got it going. Everything I’ve looked at — the film I’ve looked at, the media that I’ve listened to — there’s a good vibe out there right now. They’re playing good football; they’re playing winning football — holding onto the ball, playing good defense, running to the ball. When you do that, you have a chance to win every week.
"It’s weekends like this that made me want to be in this league. We’re excited about the opportunity — we’re going to go out there and see how we stack up."
Last season in Piscataway, Rutgers jumped out to a 17-point lead, before Michigan redshirt freshman quarterback Cade McNamara relieved redshirt sophomore Joe Milton and led the Wolverines back, forcing overtime before winning 48-42 after the third extra session.
While the Scarlet Knights came inches away from beating Michigan for the second time ever and first time since 2014, Schiano noted that it's a new year and different challenge this time around.
"They’re a different team, if you just look at it," Schiano said of the Wolverines, who posted a 2-4 record in 2020. "They didn’t have their best player [junior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson] when we played them last year. There are a lot of differences. That game was a shame; we had our opportunity there and we didn’t take advantage of it.
"This is a different Michigan team, and I’d like to think we’re a different Rutgers team, too. As I said earlier, I’m just excited to go see how we stack up. And I know everybody will know around 7:30 [p.m. ET Saturday] or so how we stack up."
Rutgers, a 20-point underdog according to VegasInsider.com, will be fighting the elements, too, in the largest stadium in college football. Not only does the weather forecast call for rain, the Scarlet Knights will be facing a crowd that has helped the Maize and Blue post a 33-8 home record during head coach Jim Harbaugh's seven seasons.
"When you play on the road, you can’t let the momentum, you can’t judge what’s going on with the momentum, all those things," Schiano explained, noting that crowd noise shouldn't be a big challenge for his team. "You’ve just got to [do] your job, just go and do what you’re supposed to do. When you start letting all that become part of the equation, then now you’re playing right into the mess.
"Playing on the road, there are certain things that we talk about all the time, and I think our guys are going to understand what it’s going to take. But again, it’s been a while since we’ve played on the road in the Big Ten with crowds — not since I’ve been here.
"This is our first Big Ten road game. Good place to start."
Greg Schiano Discusses Challenge Of Stopping Dominant Michigan Rushing Offense
Schiano's defense, which has yielded 113 rushing yards per game (49th nationally), will be tasked with slowing down the nation's top-ranked ground attack, with the Wolverines averaging 350.3 yards per game.
Michigan second-year freshman running back Blake Corum is tied atop the country with nine total touchdowns (eight rushing, one receiving), while redshirt sophomore Hassan Haskins is the starter and has four scores of his own.
"They’re really good running backs," Schiano stated. "It’s not just Blake — it’s both. They have a really good running back room; you can see it.
"And I think the guy who coaches them, Coach [Mike] Hart, I’ve followed him, tracked him from when he was a player. ... I’ve tracked his career and, at different times, thought about reaching out to see if we could bring him here.
"I think he’s an excellent coach. That room is doing a great job, with certainly talented players, but I think it’s more than that."
The Wolverines have run the ball on 75 percent of their offensive snaps, but McNamara and the passing game have proved capable when called upon. The signal-caller has completed 24 passes for 371 yards and three scores with no interceptions.
Rutgers ranks 15th nationally in passing defense (145.7 yards allowed per game) and total defense (258.7 yards yielded per contest), and tied with Michigan and Baylor for eighth in scoring defense (11.3 points allowed per clash).
The Scarlet Knights' defensive backfield will likely be without freshman starting cornerback Max Melton, who was, along with freshman reserve defensive back Chris Long, suspended by Schiano after the duo was taken into police custody Tuesday morning as a result of an incident involving a paintball gun.
Melton has registered two interceptions, including a pick-six, seven tackles, four pass breakups and one blocked punt this season.
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