Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, May 29, 2015

Kyle Flood continues to put his stamp on the Rutgers program, guiding the Scarlet Knights to an 8-5 record in the program?s Big Ten debut. Even better, RU went to a bowl for a fourth season in a row-the last three under Flood.

[ MORE: Get all of Tom Dienhart's 2015 schedule analysis posts ]

In fact, Rutgers has been to a bowl each season since 2005 but one (2010). The Knights have a shot to return to the postseason if they answer questions at quarterback and the offensive line.

They must also negotiate a tough schedule that has six bowl teams.

Toughest non-conference game: vs. Washington State, Sept. 12. This figures to be a tough one. Rutgers needed a final stand to hold off the Cougars last year in the season-opener. The pass-happy Cougs will be a good test for the Rutgers? defense as it preps for a trip to Penn State the next week.

Toughest conference game: Visits from Michigan State on Oct. 10 and from Ohio State on Oct. 24 will be equally arduous. The Spartans and Buckeyes will be among the best programs in the nation in 2015, providing the ultimate measuring stick for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers lost 56-17 last year at Ohio State and was defeated 45-3 at Michigan State.

Who they don?t play: Rutgers misses Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa.

Easiest game: vs. Norfolk State, Sept. 5. It won?t get any easier than the season-opening visit from this FCS team that went 4-8 last year.

Toughest stretch: Swallow hard, Rutgers. No Big Ten team has a more daunting four-game run than the gauntlet RU must run from Oct. 24-Nov. 14: Ohio State, at Wisconsin; at Michigan; Nebraska. That?s just not fair. Say a prayer for the Scarlet Knights, who figure to be fortunate to win one of those games.

Factoid: Rutgers will travel to Penn State for the first time since 1994 in a series the Nittany Lions have dominated, 23-2. RU?s last win vs. PSU came in 1988 in State College, when it took a 21-16 decision.

Best chance to be upset: vs. Washington State, Sept. 12. The Cougars will be seeking revenge when it visits. The Scarlet Knights took a 41-38 decision in the opener last year in Seattle, rallying from a 31-24 deficit in the fourth quarter. Cougs coach Mike Leach has Wazzu on the rise entering his fourth season in Pullman.

Best chance to pull an upset: at Penn State, Sept. 19. The Scarlet Knights came oh-so-close to knocking off Penn State last year in Piscataway, blowing a 10-0 lead and losing 13-10 on a PSU TD with 1:13 left. The Nittany Lions are a young team that still is growing, so they may be vulnerable when RU visits State College on Sept. 19.

Must win: vs. Maryland, Nov. 28. If Rutgers wants to return to the postseason, it probably will need to beat Maryland in the season finale. The Scarlet Knights pulled off a monster comeback last season vs. the Terps, rallying from a 35-10 second-quarter deficit to take a 41-38 win in College Park, Maryland. These teams will be measured vs. each other for some time, as each entered the Big Ten together.

Bye week: This comes early-maybe too early. Rutgers will be off after playing just four games. The Scarlet Knights have a chance to be 4-0 entering the bye. Anything less than a 3-1 record will be a bit of disappointment. RU will play host to Kansas going into the bye and welcome Michigan State coming out of it. No doubt, the extra prep time will help vs. the Spartans.

2015 Rutgers Schedule
Sept. 5 Norfolk State
Sept. 12 Washington State
Sept. 19 at Penn State
Sept. 26 Kansas
Oct. 3 OFF
Oct. 10 Michigan State
Oct. 17 at Indiana
Oct. 24 Ohio State
Oct. 31 at Wisconsin
Nov. 7 at Michigan
Nov. 14 Nebraska
Nov. 21 at Army
Nov. 28 Maryland


About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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