Monday, September 25, 2006

Why Rutgers Will Win the National Title

This week’s AP college football poll contains a very unfamiliar name. 23rd-ranked Rutgers makes its first appearance in the poll since finishing the 1976 season at #17. The Scarlet Knights were a longtime laughingstock, featuring a 1997 campaign in which they went 0-11 and lost to Temple by 42 points.

However, Rutgers currently stands at 4-0. The schedule has been soft thus far, but by any measure the program has taken a major step up in class. Now that the Scarlet Knights have infiltrated the rankings, it is inevitable that Rutgers will finish the season on top of them after winning the BCS national championship game in Glendale, Arizona. Here are the reasons why Rutgers will be celebrating on January 8:

Greg Schiano: The Rutgers coach was on the staffs of #2 Penn State in 1994 and #2 Miami in 2000. But now he’s a head coach, so he’s entitled to a promotion.

Nickname: Hearing the name “Scarlet Knights” will cause many opposing players to lose focus. They’ll be fantasizing about a night with Scarlett Johansson.

2005 Final Four: Rutgers has already taken out North Carolina and Illinois, so Louisville is doomed when it visits Piscataway on November 9.

Insight Bowl Loss: Notre Dame lost in the 2004 Insight Bowl before playing in the Fiesta Bowl the following season. RU was the next Insight Bowl victim, so they will inevitably follow up with an appearance in a BCS bowl in Arizona.

Jim Valvano: Rutgers alumnus Jimmy V showed that a Scarlet Knight can win a national title. Look for similar circumstances in January, as the winning field goal is booted far off-target, then redirected through the goal post by Lorenzo Charles.

Ohio State: Suppose the top-ranked Buckeyes run the table and advance to the BCS championship game. Rutgers has already beaten Ohio, so adding a “State” shouldn’t make things any different.

Auburn: The Tigers are currently #2 in the rankings. Past experience has shown that an undefeated Auburn will have no chance at the national title.

School Name: Rutgers is the official state university of New Jersey. Opposing coaching staffs will ask each other repeatedly, “Well, why don’t they just call it the University of New Jersey?” They will wonder about this issue for hours, wasting valuable game preparation time.

1988 Notre Dame National Champs: The Fighting Irish were led by quarterback Tony Rice. Rutgers depends on star running back Ray Rice. College football players named Rice win championships, unlike college football teams named Rice.

James Gandolfini: The man who plays Tony Soprano is a Rutgers alumnus. He helps keep scoring down, as opponents who reach the end zone mysteriously disappear before the next possession.

No Arizona State: Rutgers has played in two bowl games in its history and lost to Arizona State on each occasion. The Sun Devils were blown out by California on Saturday, so the Scarlet Knights will not have to worry about seeing their bowl nemesis in the BCS championship game.

The Natural: In the film, the New York Knights won the pennant. Knowing that he is pivotal for Knights to win championships, Rutgers will likely enroll Roy Hobbs before the title game.

Mr. Magoo: The character is noted as a Rutgers alumnus in his comic strip. Fortunately, the Scarlet Knights do not need the vision-challenged Magoo on the football field. He’s busy anyway, as a Pac-10 replay official.

Bruce Springsteen: By law, no column can be written about New Jersey without referencing The Boss. A Rutgers championship would inspire countless replays of “Glory Days.” Bon Jovi will also be represented with “Livin’ On A Prayer,” after a game-winning Hail Mary versus West Virginia.

Four Quarters: Unlike the neighboring Giants, the Scarlet Knights do not wait until the fourth quarter to begin playing.

Miami Heat: The NBA champs are a team from south Florida that defeated the Bulls on the way to a title. This Friday, Rutgers can defeat the South Florida Bulls on the way to a championship.

Henry Rutgers: The man after whom the school is named was a Revolutionary War hero. His team will be similarly triumphant, assuming the opponents are loaded with British soldiers.

Birthplace of College Football: This tag has been applied to Rutgers, which hosted the first intercollegiate football game (a 6-4 victory over Princeton) in 1869. Shortly after giving birth to college football, Rutgers gave it up for adoption. But it’s determined to reconnect.