What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Kevin at On The Banks, SB Nation's fine blog for all things Rutgers. The Big Ten officially welcomes Rutgers (and Maryland) as the newest members of the conference this week, so I thought it was time to get to know them a bit better.
1) Now that you're officially members of the Big Ten, what's the feeling like among your readers or the Rutgers fanbase as a whole? How excited are you guys about playing Big Ten foes this year and visiting new stadiums and gyms for the first time? How sad are you to be leaving behind long-standing rivals in the Big East/AAC?
In terms of old rivals, I think the fans are more excited than sad to leave them. Syracuse was a program that ignited plenty of hate in the RU faithful, but it was an unhealthy hate in my opinion. Both fanbases were somewhat jealous of what the other had: Cuse fans longed for the days when their program mattered, and the Greg Robinson era brought the Orange into the basement. On the other hand, you could see some Rutgers fans were bitter that Syracuse had some prestige to fall back on, as the program had a Heisman winner and was once a national title contender. It was definitely brewing into a heated rivalry, but there wasn't any respect to be had on either side.
UConn also had potential due to proximity, but honestly it was never a really exciting matchup. The fans are beyond excited to trade in the Huskies and the Orange for annual games against the Buckeyes and Wolverines.
2) What should we expect out of Rutgers this year in football?
Rutgers style of football is actually quite B1G: power running game, and a defense designed to stop the run. There's talent on the roster led by former five-star recruit Darius Hamilton, so if the coaching staff can come together and bring out the potential, Rutgers football will be competitive. Bringing in Ralph Friedgen as offensive coordinator was a home run hire, and he should have the best chance out of anyone to help Gary Nova cut down on turnovers and be more efficient with the football. The biggest question for RU will be the secondary. In 2013, Rutgers ranked near the bottom of FBS in yards allowed through the air, a stark contrast from what we're used to in Piscataway. The team did lose seven of the top defensive backs to the NFL the year before, so some regression was expected. With more experience from the younger defenders, cornerback and safety will be key positions to watch for 2014.
3) What should we expect out of Rutgers this year in basketball?
Eddie Jordan is entering his second year after taking over following the Mike Rice scandal. There were plenty of growing pains in 2013, and it's likely that could continue in 2014 considering the strength of basketball in the Big Ten. However, there is hope. He brought in one of his former assistants from his stint with the Washington Wizards in Mike O'Koren to help cement the Princeton offense in the system. Seniors Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack are the best players on the team and have plenty of experience to help transition the younger guys on the team. Mack is a combo guard who can make the big three, while Kadeem Jack is on the verge of breaking out as a power forward and could be an NBA player with a big year. Top freshmen coming in include Shaquille Doorson, a center previously committed to Pittsburgh, and Mike Williams, who was the best player in NYC last year.
4) Can you give us a brief overview of some of your non-revenue sports? Football and men's basketball are the big kahunas, obviously, but what else is Rutgers especially good at? What sports do you expect to make an impact in right away in the Big Ten?
Wrestling is currently undergoing a renaissance under coach Scott Goodale. The program drew record-high ticket sales for 2013, and the excitement from fans seems to be growing. The team finished 11-5 (7-2 in the EIWA), good for 34th in InterMat's rankings, and defeated new B1G-foe Michigan State in last November's Asics/Journeyman Northeast Duals. The wrestling team also produced Rutgers' first All-American since 2002 in redshirt sophomore Anthony Perrotti. All of this means that Rutgers can be middle of the pack good in the Big Ten, although I like to think that's decent considering the quality of wrestling in the conference.
Women's basketball is led by hall of fame coach C. Vivian Stringer, whom Iowa fans should be familiar with. With an incredibly young team led by Tyler Scaife and Kahleah Copper, the Lady Knights won a WNIT championship (yes, that's a thing), so hopes are high that they can return to the NCAA tournament in 2014. Rutgers had another All-American (1st team) in Track & Field star Corey Crawford, who placed second in the long jump at the 2014 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships. Lacrosse is pretty good too, but I won't bore you Midwesterners with that sport.
5) What's a unique school tradition -- official or otherwise -- that people might not know about about Rutgers?
After every score, Rutgers fires a colonial-era cannon inside the stadium. It tends to take visitors by surprise - and even longtime fans - due to how loud the boom is.
6) Finally, are you ready to be hazed? Newbies gotta get hazed.
I felt like the inaugural B1G schedule was hazing enough, but have at it.
EDIT: Again, don't forget to head over to On The Banks to catch up on all things Rutgers.
Thanks for being a good sport, Kevin, although I still hope your team loses by 50 when they play Iowa this year. You can check out Kevin and the rest of the OTB crew at On The Banks. You can also follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevRacio and OTB at @OTB_SBNation.