Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Rutgers finishes successful first season in B1G with bowl victory

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The Rutgers Scarlet Knights were favored to finish dead last in the Big Ten East — including predictions by this very site — during the program’s first season in the conference.

Kyle Flood and his team exceeded expectations with an 8-5 record and a 40-21 victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Quick Lane Bowl held in Detroit, Michigan.

With the bowl victory, Rutgers will finish fourth in the Big Ten East with the potential to own the fifth-best overall record in the entire conference.

The narrative was simple earlier this year: Rutgers was only added to the Big Ten Conference because of its footprint in New York City and New Jersey.

It just so happens that its a pretty good football program, too.

The victory over North Carolina also established early bragging rights for the Big Ten over the ACC.

The North Carolina Tar Heels dropped to 6-7 overall during a disappointing season. Larry Fedora‘s squad was a chic pick to be a Top 25 team this season and potentially steal an ACC Coastal Crown. Instead, the program finished third overall in one of the weakest divisions among the Power Five conferences.

After three straight seasons of diminishing win totals, Fedora will likely enter next season on the hot seat.

Rutgers was simply more physical at the point of attack than North Carolina. The Scarlet Knights ran for a whopping 340 yards. Freshman running back Josh Hicks amassed 202 yards on the ground.

North Carolina’s offense was dynamic at times, but the team’s defense simply didn’t show up and that falls directly on the head coach.

Flood, meanwhile, will enjoy the momentum his program built during its first year in the Big Ten both in recruiting and preparation for next season.

Rutgers ready to add exclamation point on season with 23-0 lead over UNC in Quick Lane Bowl

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Ten years ago, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights were just starting their ascent to respectability under Greg Schiano. Nine bowl games later, and the program is putting together arguably its strongest postseason effort in the program’s history.

Rutgers dominated the North Carolina Tar Heels 23-0 through two quarters of play in the Quick Lane Bowl.

After losing their past two bowl games, the Scarlet Knights are trying to add an exclamation point to their first season as a member of the Big Ten Conference.

Kyle Flood‘s squad built a lead by winning in the trenches and playing fundamentally sound football.

Rutgers established the run early, and the team’s pair of freshmen running backs, Robert Martin and Josh Hicks, combined for 124 yards on 20 carries.

“Any time your running game works, you’re making guys miss and breaking tackles.” Flood told ESPN as he headed to the locker room for halftime. “I think they’ve both done a good job.”

Overall, the Scarlet Knights gained 281 yards of total offense.

North Carolina, meanwhile, struggled to develop any consistency. The Tar Heels fumbled the ball twice. Once they were finally able to move the ball, kicker Thomas Moore missed a field goal attempt and another was blocked.

It wasn’t until late in the second quarter that North Carolina was finally able to move the ball successfully by stretching the field horizontally. The Tar Heels stayed away from the strength of Rutgers’ defense — its defensive line — and tested its athleticism on the edges.

If North Carolina is going to attempt a comeback, it will have to increase tempo on offense while continuing to get their play-makers in space. Rutgers simply needs to control the ball and the line of scrimmage like it did in the first half to finish the season 8-5 overall.

Ohio State AD: B1G expansion ‘is about money’

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Ohio State AD Gene Smith knows how to pander to his audience. Within the course of two days, Smith gave two different spins on the addition of Rutgers (and Maryland) to the Big Ten Conference.

Smith defended the league’s addition of Rutgers Saturday in an interview with NJ.com’s Dan Duggan.

Smith stated Rutgers “will bring a lot to the table.” The Buckeyes’ athletic director complimented Rutgers’ prestigious academic programs. He also mentioned the football team’s success under former head coach Greg Schiano and the money the school put into the program during that period.

The idea Rutgers was chosen to become a member of the Big Ten Conference due to a business decision was merely an after thought.

Smith was far more candid Sunday during an interview with The Columbus Dispatch’s Todd Jones. When Smith was asked directly about the Big Ten’s additions of Rutgers and Maryland, Smith stated the obvious.

“From a business point of view, it makes huge sense,” Smith told Jones. “This is a business deal. This is about money. Everybody wants to dodge that; I don’t. It’s about the stability of our conference for the long term.”

Smith looks at these moves as a way to adjust to the changing landscape of college football and the United States’ shifting population.

“It provides a new geography for us to have a presence in, for a number of reasons: television, recruiting, (and) providing Penn State with some geographical partners,” Smith stated. “The reality is, growth was inevitable for intercollegiate athletic conferences. We needed to be part of that.

“As far as the shifting population, that is reason enough by itself to look at the concept of expansion.”

With the Big Ten’s media days set to commence Monday and Tuesday, a big spectacle will be made of the additions of Rutgers and Maryland. The two programs will be accepted as equals among the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, etc. The reality is these program were merely business acquisitions which proved to be a means to an end for the Big Ten Conference.

Report: Big Ten plans to play more games in NYC

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The Big Ten Conference is adamant about expanding its presence on the East Coast, particularly in New York City.

Adding Rutgers to the league, reaching an agreement with the Pinstripe Bowl and opening an office in Manhattan wasn’t quite enough to sate the conference’s desires.

The Big Ten Conference is considering hosting regular season contests in New York City at Yankee Stadium and Washington D.C., according to cbssports.com’s Jeremy Fowler.

The conference would use the neutral sites to help cultivate rivalries between Penn State and its newest members, Rutgers and Maryland.

“Like with Yankee Stadium — would there be a case where Rutgers or Penn State or Maryland, would they want to move a game to an iconic stadium like that?” Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman posed to Fowler. “You could bring in, for Rutgers, probably another 10 to 15,000 people there. Is that a game that makes sense to move there? Probably.”

It can also serve as an opportunity for the new schools to benefit from the more established programs in the conference. Teams like Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin have national followings and their fans travel well. Bigger venues to host these programs will be beneficial for both the programs playing in the games and the conference.

High-profile venues can also be used to entice marquee opponents as additions to non-conference schedules. Rutgers, for example, will travel to Seattle this fall to open the season against the Pac-12’s Washington State Cougars at CenturyLink Field. Rutgers can use the lure of Yankee Stadium to bring in other opponents from the Pac-12, Big 12 or SEC.

By potentially using stadiums at key demographic locations, the Big Ten Conference will be taking full advantage of its expanded footprint and the markets it cherished when the decision was made to expand to 14 teams.

Ohio State AD: ‘Rutgers will bring a lot to the table’

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As the wheels of conference realignment spun, a league’s “footprint” became more important than athletic success. A school’s market was more valuable than what it could bring to the field of play.

The Big Ten Conference’s inclusion of Rutgers may have been the most obvious case of a “Big 5” conference looking more at a school’s location than how it will improve the league’s level of play.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, however, believes Rutgers is a major asset to the Big Ten.

“There’s some long-term historic rivalries, like ours with that team up north, and then there’s those that emerge,” Smith told NJ.com’s Dan Duggan. “I think the Rutgers-Penn State one will probably elevate itself over time and it will be one of those contests that everybody will look forward to all the time. I think Rutgers will bring a lot to the table.”

Smith cited the school’s previous success on the gridiron under former head coach Greg Schiano and the money the school pumped into the program during that era. The Scarlet Knights were 56-33 with six bowl appearances during Schiano’s seven seasons.

Under the supervision of Kyle Flood, the Scarlet Knights have remained competitive. They were 9-4 in 2012 but stumbled to 6-7 last season.

Despite these middling results against lesser competition, Rutgers remained attractive to the Big Ten Conference. Smith admitted the school’s location in New Jersey, as part of the New York City market, still remains a factor in Rutgers’ inclusion to the league.

“The East Coast, obviously from a market point of view, is huge for us,” Smith. “We have to have a presence on the East Coast and Penn State needed some partners on the East Coast. Rutgers does that.”

Even when another athletic director within the Big Ten Conference defends the inclusion of Rutgers from an academic and athletic standpoint, the school’s location still remains the No. 1 reason they were invited. After all, the Scarlets Knights are expected to finish last in the Big Ten’s eastern division.