Washington Huskies (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date/Time: Friday, September 1, 2017 at 8:00PM EST
Where: High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, New Jersey
TV: Fox Sports One
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: WASH -30.5/RUT +30.5
Over/Under Total: 52
The Washington Huskies cross the country to visit the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in week one action, as both teams look to get their seasons off to a good start. The revived Huskies were 12-2 last season and are on the heels of a College Football Playoff appearance. It was the first time the Huskies have been in the national spotlight in years and they look for more of the same this year. In Rutgers, the goals are different after a two-win 2016 season where not a lot of things went right.
For a team like Rutgers that is just trying to find their bearings under second-year head coach Chris Ash, this is a tough way to open the season, even with it being at home in a faraway road trip for their opponent. These teams played in week one last season too, with the Huskies notching a 48-13 win at home. At home, Rutgers hopes they can be more competitive and perhaps catch the Huskies overlooking them a bit. The point spread suggests something more ominous.
Truth be told, Washington has some doubts surrounding their season with a lot of new faces on both sides of the ball. But a big part of their success returns in QB Jake Browning. His 41 touchdowns through the air and ability to scoot with his legs make him one of the more-dangerous players at his position. He looks to have good protection this season again, with center Coleman Shelton returning with their two starting tackles, but well see how well they do in filling out the inside of that line.
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If the line is ready to hit the ground running, it should help unleash a potent run-game led by Browning and a pair of backs who combined for over 2200 yards last season in Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman. But one of the reasons the offense was so good last year was because of WR John Ross, who is gone. That leaves the receiving responsibilities in the hands of returning contributors Dante Pettis and Chico McClatcher. Perhaps among the youth at receiver lies some more answers.
Washingtons front-seven on defense returns fairly intact and they will be forced to carry their weight and then some. If Washington looks to match its 2016 form of allowing just 18 points per game, they will need to be better than last year up-front. Thats where tough Vita Voa and Greg Gaines will do their best to stop the run. Azeem Victor, Keishawn Bierra, and Connor OBrien should provide a stout presence in the second level. But anyone watching the last NFL draft probably couldnt help but notice all the Washington defensive backs that were selected early. Surely, that figures to resonate badly, especially when they start facing more aerially-inclined teams.
Hiring ex-Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill to run their offense figures to be good for Rutgers. He was always able to at least fashion a competent run-game and Rutgers could use that. So can grad transfer and new Scarlet Knights quarterback Kyle Bolin, who lost his starting gig at Louisville to eventual Heisman winner Lamar Jackson last season and looks for one more shot at collegiate glory. Reports from practice is that hes acting as a leader and is already embracing Ash and Kills offensive approach.
On the good side of the coin, Rutgers has some strength at running back with Gus Edwards and Robert Martin. Damon Mitchell should be better at receiver, where another weapon in Janarion Grant (questionable) can do a lot of different things for this offense. That all sounds promisinga potential upgrade at QB, decent weapons in the air and on the ground, and a proven coach now adding his two cents. But with Rutgers, they just cant seem to entice any of the better young offensive linemen to campus. Its a part of their team that has never been brought around to Big Ten speed and against the better teams they play, the O-line is often out of its element.
Obviously with a 2-win team from the previous season, one cant bemoan personnel losses too much. Still, there are no proven pass-rushers returning to the fold this season and that doesnt seem to set up well against the likes of Jake Browning. In addition, their ability to stop the run was sorely lacking in 2016, which also shakes out poorly for this matchup. Deontre Roberts and Trevor Morris are good in the middle, where they also lost this units biggest difference-maker in Tyreek Maddox-Williams to injury. There is some veteran leadership in the secondary, which will be run ragged this season making up for the deficiencies up front.
In other words, Rutgers looks to really be up against it this season, particularly in this realm. At the same time, Washington has enough issues of their own. Theyre hoping for big things this season and might not be shot out of a cannon coming out to Jersey to face a team that won two games last season. The talent differential might be stark, but with Washingtons aerial game perhaps a bit muted this season compared to last when the Huskies won this exact matchup at home by 35. I think things set up well for a Rutgers cover in this one.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights plus 30.5 points.
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