Steele thinks Rutgers will be a better offensive team this fall, and the Scarlet Knights have several historic indicators pointing their way that suggest an improved record from a year ago. Steele also wrote he thinks this is fourth-year coach Chris Ash’s best team at Rutgers.
But there is really nowhere to go but up when you are 1-11, had one of the nation’s worst offensive units and will carry the country’s longest losing streak into the new season. So how much better can Rutgers actually be? And will it be enough to calm the seas around Chris Ash?
Again, it goes back to the glass litmus test mentioned above, and there won’t be a clear answer for a while. But in the meantime, here’s a look at some interesting nuggets culled from Steele’s annual Talking Season bible:
More points: Steele’s computer projects Rutgers will average 22 points a game this season, the fourth-biggest improvement in the country from 2018. If the Scarlet Knights do hit the mark, it would be their highest average under Ash.
But … Steele still thinks Rutgers will have one of the nation’s least productive offenses. He projects the Scarlet Knights will have the nation’s 127th-ranked scoring offense (out of 130) and be No. 129 in total offense.
YPP indicator: Rutgers racked up 19.72 yards per point last season, worst in the nation. Recent history says that 81.1 percent of teams who had a similar output saw their win-loss record improve or stay the same the following season, according to Steele. It’s not much, but it’s something.
Stock market: Steele does not name Rutgers on his surprise team or most improved team rankings, but he did score them a plus-2 on his stock market indicator. That means they could be due for a bounce-back in record after an uncharacteristically uneven record. Steele said 74.3 percent of teams that have had plus-2 indicators in his research have seen their records improve or stay the same that season. Keep in mind Rutgers could nail this forecast and still be 3-9.
Turnovers: Rutgers was minus-14 in turnover differential in 2018, tied for the nation’s second-worst finish. Seventy-seven percent of teams with double-digit negative turnover ratios have had a better record or stayed neutral the following season since 1991, according to Steele. But Rutgers has struggled with the volatile but critical stat for a while now.
Net close losses: Rutgers had three losses by a touchdown or less in 2018, according to Steele’s methodology. Ten of 11 teams that had three in 2017 had better records in 2018, according to Steele, and teams with three net close losses have had a better/same record close to 80 percent of the time in recent history.
Power rankings: Rutgers is 97th in Steele’s preseason power poll, ahead of only one other Power 5 team – Kansas is No. 104.