Halfway through the 2012 season, Rutgers finds itself in a very interesting situation that could become even more intriguing as the year progresses.
At 6-0, the Scarlet Knights are No. 15 in the BCS Standings. As a member of the Big East conference, however, the amount of respect Rutgers will be shown as the season goes along is anything but certain.
No matter what happens this season, Rutgers has been a pleasant surprise in college football, succeeding despite the departure of former head coach Greg Schiano.
One thing is for sure: if the Scarlet Knights can remain undefeated, they’ll cause a lot of stress for the BCS system as to where to rank them and where to place them for a bowl game (which in turn means great entertainment for college football fans).
Looking forward, here are three realistic postseason scenarios for Rutgers following the 2012 season.
Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova.
Of course, this is assuming Rutgers is able to run the table and finish with a perfect 12-0 season—no easy feat considering No. 16 Louisville and No. 21 Cincinnati (both undefeated themselves) still loom ahead on the schedule.
Ideally, Louisville and Cincinnati would remain unbeaten and highly ranked until Rutgers knocks them off, giving the Scarlet Knights a pair of high quality wins.
Combine those two games with a win against SEC opponent Arkansas, and that could be enough to convince the BCS to give Rutgers a chance to play in one of the five major bowl games.
The situation would be something like Boise State’s in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma: one undefeated team from a weaker conference against a perennial powerhouse coming out of one of the top conferences in the nation (with a regular season loss or two).
This would be the ideal situation for Rutgers fans, a huge opportunity for the team to prove itself in a major bowl game by shocking a major opponent.
The Scarlet Knights absolutely must remain unbeaten to get there, and several of the other nine unbeaten teams currently ranked in the BCS Top 25 would have to lose at least one game.
Rutgers receiver Brandon Coleman in last year's New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
Again, assuming for excitement’s sake that Rutgers runs the table, another possibility is that they are placed in a bowl game with another unbeaten team from a weaker conference.
To compare the situation to a precedent set by Boise State, it would be like the 2010 Fiesta Bowl where Boise went up against TCU. Both the Broncos and the Horned Frogs entered the game undefeated and highly ranked but slightly disrespected because of their conference affiliation and according schedule.
The product was an entertaining matchup in one of the major bowls, but it didn’t teach us much.
Unlike Boise State’s win over Oklahoma, the game didn’t prove that a great team from a smaller conference could compete with the nation’s powerhouses—it simply showed that two unbeaten teams facing off on the national stage could be very exciting.
This scenario would still be fantastic for Rutgers, though, as it would provide them with the chance to play in a major bowl game.
Though this last scenario is the least enthralling, it’s probably also the most likely.
As the top ranked team in the Big East, Rutgers now has the honor of carrying a target on their back when they play conference opponents.
Many Big East teams have little or nothing to lose, and would love nothing more than to place a blemish on the Scarlet Knights’ pristine record.
In the very likely scenario that Rutgers emerges from the 2012 regular season with a loss or two, they’ll still make a bowl game. It won’t be a major bowl, but they’ll probably draw a quality opponent, much better than last year’s 6-6 Iowa State.
This scenario is still a big step for the Rutgers program. Even with a couple losses, the Scarlet Knights should hang around in the BCS standings all season, and a bowl game against a quality opponent will garner national attention.
No matter what happens, at the midway point of this season, Rutgers is in an exciting place.
Only time will tell what kind of postseason the second half will bring.