There are conference road games at Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, South Florida and West Virginia, and at more than one place in what should be a very competitive Big East, the winner could be decided by a few points.
Perhaps by a last-minute field goal.
Rutgers should be tremendous defensively and markedly improved on offense, but there seems to be a bit of uncertainty regarding red-shirt junior San San Te’s stature as an elite kicker.
He is incredibly consistent, in a good way, from 39 yards and in. But he is also incredibly consistent, in a bad way, from 40 yards or more.
Given Rutgers’ road schedule and its experience level, there could be a few close games, which is why Te sits at No. 8 on ScarletReport.com’s countdown of the Top 25 most important players for the 2010 season.
Te’s predecessor, Jeremy Ito, set the kicking standard at Rutgers. For far too long, any made field goal was reason for celebration, and the thought of Rutgers having a kicker who could consistently make 40-plus yard field goals was unfathomable.
Ito changed that, and also gave Te plenty to live up to.
Coach Greg Schiano said before spring practice there would be competition for Te with walk-on Kyle Sullivan, and Te did fine in securing the job.
Through two seasons Te has been good, making 66.6 percent (30 of 45) of his field goal attempts, but more is expected of him now that he has two years of experience.
During his career, from 39 yards or closer, Te is very good. He hit 15 of 18 of them in 2009, and is 26 of 31 inside of 40 yards in his career.
But there is a need for Te to produce more points when the offense stalls outside of the red-zone. Last year he was 3 of 10 from beyond 39 yards, including 3 of 8 from 40 to 49 yards. That followed a season in which he was 1 of 4 from 40 yards or more.
As a freshman, he quietly kicked in a lot of pain because of a back injury, but last year he was healthy. It translated into plenty of points – Te was fourth in the Big East in scoring at 7.15 points per game – but also frustration when the Scarlet Knights came away with no points on long attempts.
Te doesn’t handle the kickoffs, nor does he punt. His connected on all 39 extra point attempts last season, but mastering the longer field goal is pivotal in 2010.