Rutgers University will win the 2009 Big East football championship, and represent the league in a BCS bowl. There, I said it.
You want more? Try this on for size.
Rutgers will win that bowl game handily; it’s fourth in a row after going 0 for 137 years.
Alright, put the phone down. No need to send the men in white coats to come pick me up. I haven’t recently fallen down a flight of stairs headfirst, and I haven’t been refusing my meds. Rutgers will win the Big East this year, and for one reason….
The women’s basketball program at Rutgers has flirted with the National Championship from time to time, most recently losing in the 2007 final. They won the AIAW National Championship in 1982 by knocking off Texas, 83-77.
Even the men’s basketball team has provided some excitement on “The Banks,” although not much since that memorable undefeated ride to the Final Four in 1976.
The only National Championship on the men’s side of the ledger? The 1949 fencing team.
Oh, I’m sure that for the eight or nine fans in attendance, that day conjures up some mighty fine memories. But it’s not really the signature championship a University can hang its collective hats on.
No, that privilege, my good people, will fall into the hands of the Rutgers University football team. A team that struggled to find it’s identity for more than 100 years. A team that hosted the first college football game ever, and then took a 137 year nap.
Guess what? Rip Van Rutgers is awake, and he’s well rested.
O.K. So now you want more than hyperbole. More than just the ramblings of an over exuberant 1987 Rutgers grad who feels he deserves payback for being brought to the precipice of greatness with an opening day tie against No. 3 Florida in 1985, only to be brought back down to earth with a loss to Army the following week.
Let’s look at some recent Scarlet Knight success.
2006 has got to be considered a high water mark for the program. I doubt I would get much argument about that. 11-2, a bowl victory, a final ranking of No. 12. Not too shabby.
And what were the ingredients to the success that season? A stifling defense, a ball control offense, and a young quarterback with one main objective; don’t screw up.
For those of you who follow the Knights, I bet you’re getting goose bumps about now. Does that sound eerily familiar? Kind of like the team we have going into 2009? Yep.
Granted, there are differences. And, as some wise, old, grizzled coach murmured under his breath some years ago after hearing the lofty preseason ranking for his team,
“Preseason polls are crap! You still have to go out and play the games.”
Ah, sage advice, indeed.
The pieces, however, do seem to be in place for a very memorable year for Rutgers football.
The defense will again be stingy, perhaps more so than 2006. The line will be difficult to run on, the secondary will make life tough on receivers and quarterbacks, and the linebackers will be flat out nasty.
Oh, I could get more specific about the individual players, or the defensive schemes and blitz packages that will be flying all around the stadium, but that’s what all those preseason publications like Athlon, the Sporting News and Phil Steele are for.
As for the offense, a quarterback needs too, and will, emerge. That may sound like a tall order, but remember what I said about 2006. We only need someone behind center who doesn’t screw up.
I realize that may sound a bit more simplistic than it really is, but it is at least on the periphery of truth. Although Mike Teel left the school this past year as the all-time leader in just about every passing category, his role in 2006 was that of caretaker, not play maker.
Just take care of the ball, manage the clock. I think that worked out fairly well.
We’ve all heard this a thousand times….offense wins games, but defense wins championships.
The pieces are in place. The coach has brought in the kind of player that succeeds not only on the field, but also in life. The fans are as rabid as they have been at any point over the past 140 years.
The stadium expansion is moving along nicely. The Big East is without a clear favorite, and the Scarlet Knights will field the most talent that has ever graced the banks of the Raritan.
Oh, and one more thing…