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Rutgers teases its faithful in loss
Only Rutgers can tease a fan base so much.
It was November 9, 2006 and Rutgers filled their fan base with joy after knocking off No. 3 Louisville.Rutgers radio play-by-play man Chris Carlin called it "Pandemonium in Piscataway".
It appeared to be the first step toward what should’ve been Rutgers’ first Big East title and BCS Bowl berth. Rutgers was 9-0 and appeared to be on their way.
They were on their way until suffering a disheartening 30-11 loss at Cincinnati the following week. Ok, no big deal, right?. Rutgers rebounded to beat Syracuse the next week, setting up an ultra-important game against West Virginia. We all remember what happened that day. Rutgers fell to the Mountaineers, 41-39, in three overtimes.
Let’s fast forward to Saturday, November 24, 2012. Rutgers had the Big East title and a BCS bid all but locked up. But then Pittsburgh came along and crushed the Scarlet Knights, 27-6.
Ok, everyone is entitled to a hiccup. All Rutgers needed to do after that loss was beat Louisville at home. Ok, it’s not an easy task, but the Scarlet Knights had arrived, right? Wrong. Rutgers came up short in a game it should have won, falling to Louisville, 20-17 on Thursday night.
There’s no easy way to put it. Rutgers blew it. From bad penalties, to dropped passes, to bad third-down defense and late-game interceptions, Rutgers had several opportunities to either put the game away or at least take control. Sorry Rutgers fans, it’s another opportunity to make a splash on the national stage gone.
There’s a cold, hard reality that Rutgers fans need to face. Will the Scarlet Knights ever play in a major bowl game? Rutgers fans may not like what the question implies, but it’s a legitimate inquiry.
Let’s assume Rutgers doesn’t win the Big East championship next season, will the Scarlet Knights fare any better in the Big Ten? Sure, the recruiting will be upgraded, so will the resources and exposure. But will those things be upgraded enough to put Rutgers over the top?
The skeptics, and there are many, will tell you no. The logic is if Rutgers couldn’t win the Big East title, how will it win the Big Ten championship? It doesn’t matter whether the Scarlet Knights are in the Leaders or Legends Division, neither road will be easy.
The Leaders Division includes Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana and Illinois. The Legends Division consists of Nebraska, Michigan, Northwestern, Michigan State, Minnesota and Iowa. Can anyone see Rutgers finishing on the top of either of those divisions? Maybe a seven or eight years from now Rutgers could contend, but not in the immediate future.
To be fair, many wondered if Northwestern would ever become relevant again. But the Wildcats, after 59 years of futility, won the Big Ten title in 1995, 1996 and 200 and has been a perennial bowl-contender with nine appearances since the 1995 season. So yes, there is hope for Rutgers. But no one should expect any overnight miracles.
The immediate good news for Rutgers is that the crowds in Piscataway will be larger once the move to the Big Ten becomes official in 2014. Imagine Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State coming to town for a game. The line for tickets will run all the way down the New Jersey Turnpike to Philadelphia.
Other than increased ticket and merchandising sales and more money for the university’s coffers, Rutgers fans shouldn’t expect any national championship appearances for a long time.
Yes, it’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s a realistic pill to swallow.