Rutgers improving but Big Ten East a tough climb

With Rutgers coming to Ohio Stadium to play Ohio State on Saturday, there is one big question that needs to be asked.

That question is not if Rutgers has any chance to beat Ohio State. Everyone already knows that answer.

The question is, what is the ceiling for Rutgers’ football program? What can Rutgers hope to become?

It will probably struggle to ever be like Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State.

But could it become like Wisconsin or Iowa? Those two programs have built themselves into Big Ten contenders in most years even though they don’t have all the advantages of elite football programs.

Could it become like Michigan State? It is, after all, the state university of the state of New Jersey and has an enrollment of nearly 50,000.

Could it become like Northwestern, which though wildly unpredictable, is capable of producing enough good seasons to balance out the not so good seasons?

Could it be like Minnesota, which is starting to recognize it has resources that were not tapped as fully as they could have been?

Location is the biggest reason Rutgers was brought into the Big Ten. Getting into the New York television market is what the Big Ten wanted and Rutgers offered that opportunity.

But a different kind of location might be one of the biggest things working against Rutgers rising up and challenging the big boys of the Big Ten.

As long as it is in the Big Ten’s East Division, Rutgers is probably going to be, at best, fourth in the East behind Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. And Michigan State could also be ahead of them many years.

Since joining the Big Ten in 2014, Rutgers is 0-8 against Ohio State and Penn State and 1-7 against Michigan and Michigan State.

Jim Naveau has covered local and high school sports for The Lima News since 1978 and Ohio State football since 1992. His OSU coverage appears in more than 30 newspapers. Naveau, a Miami University graduate, also worked at the Greenville Advocate and the Piqua Daily Call. He has seen every boys state basketball tournament since 1977. Reach him at [email protected] or 567-242-0414.