Rutgers Football: The Season That Could Have Been

Jonathan SzenicsCorrespondent INovember 25, 2008

Going into the college football season, Rutgers, while not in the Top 25 to begin the season, still was in the first AP Poll within the top 50 or so, due to getting votes in the poll. 

This was despite the fact that they were supposed to have been a team recovering from massive losses. 

The hope was there in New Jersey, and throughout the nation as well, that the Scarlet Knights would recover quickly from the loss of quite possibly their best player ever, running back Ray Rice, who was drafted in the second round of this past April's NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens. 

Many thought that the players on the team could pick up the slack for the departure of Rice, who did the right thing in bolting for the NFL. 

He had nothing left to prove, and with the position that he plays, all it would have taken was one weird twist of a knee, and he could have kissed his millions of NFL dollars goodbye. 

Despite this loss, hope ran constant that Rutgers would compete for the Big East title this year. 

Going into their first game of the season against Fresno State, many thought that if Rutgers could win that game, it would be a springboard to new and exciting places that the program had never been before. 

This game came seemingly out of nowhere, and Rutgers did not show up at all.  With the Scarlet Knights shooting themselves in the foot throughout the game and leaving countless points unscored, Fresno State handled them with ease in front of the Rutgers home crowd, which was not happy to say the least with the effort of the team. 

Still, going into action against North Carolina, the hope was there that the ugly loss was already out of the way.  North Carolina went to New Jersey and battered the Scarlet Knights for four quarters in a game that was not even close though, and before Rutgers knew it, they were on their heels at 0-2. 

Then, in the blink of an eye, the team was 1-5, and many were wondering whether the magic of the past few seasons was a distant memory. 

The one win was very cheap against a lacking program, and many did not want to see what the bulk of the Big East schedule would bring. 

Luckily for Rutgers, though, they woke up, and in a hurry as well. 

Currently on a five-game winning streak, and at 6-5 overall, Rutgers is bowl-bound, and many are now wondering, what if? 

What if Rutgers woke up earlier in the season, or even better, played like this all season? 

As a result, many are considering this a disappointing season. 

Is this truly the case though? 

In reality, no, it is not.  First, two of the losses were extremely close games to Cincinnati and West Virginia, and if a few bounces went in the favor of the Scarlet Knights, they could very well be 8-3 right now. 

Yes, 8-3 is not undefeated, and yes, 8-3 is not the best record that one could have dreamed of, but in this season, where the Big East has not lived up to expectations, that might have been enough to get Rutgers into their first BCS Bowl ever. 

It is what it is though.  Currently Rutgers is sitting at 6-5, and as long as they take care of business against Louisville—which should not be a problem, considering Louisville beats themselves in most weeks—this team will be 7-5 and in a respectable bowl game, even if it is not a "top" one. 

For a program that is still on the rise, this is still a step in the right direction.  Patience is everything, and as long as everything clicks next season for Rutgers, a BCS Bowl appearance may very well be in the cards. 

So no, this season was not a failure.  It was a solid season by a younger group of players mainly, and one that can hopefully be built upon next season.