Monday, November 14, 2011

Rutgers Rises to Yankee Stadium Challenge

The Giants and Jets really flopped yesterday. Ah, but East Brunswick finally won, beating West Windsor-Plainsboro North -- why didn't they just call it "Plainsboro High School"? -- 42-22 to prevent a winless season. And Rutgers...

In the old days, Rutgers would occasionally go to Yankee Stadium in its pre-renovation, fillagreed-roof, Monuments on the field format to play New York University (NYU) in football -- and usually get clobbered.

That was not the case on Saturday, as RU went to the new Yankee Stadium to play Army (the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York), in what was officially a home game for Army despite the neutral site (this after Notre Dame got a "home game" against Army at the new Stadium last year), and overcame a 6-0 deficit to win, 27-12.

It was only 13-12 Rutgers midway through the 4th quarter when RU blocked a punt, and Jordan Thomas returned it 32 yards for a touchdown.

Attendance at the 50,000-seat Stadium was just 30,028, including the thousands of members of the Corps of Cadets placed in the outfield, as temporary gray-clad "Bleacher Creatures." The 30,028 wouldn't have filled the 39,000-seat Michie Stadium at West Point, let alone the 52,000-seat new Rutgers Stadium.

I refuse to use the new corporate name: RU is not at a high point, and they've provided precious few solutions.

Or... have they? Rutgers is currently 7-3, having picked up overtime wins at Syracuse and over South Florida, beaten usually-tough Pittsburgh, and beaten both Eastern service academies, Army and Navy (Annapolis, Maryland, although the game was played at Rutgers Stadium -- I don't believe Rutgers has ever played the Air Force Academy, which is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado). But they've also lost games they should have won at North Carolina (24-22), at Louisville (16-14), and home to West Virginia (41-31).

Still, other conference games mean that the Big East is currently led by Cincinnati with a 3-1 record. Rutgers, West Virginia, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Connecticut all have 2 league losses. Which means that, theoretically, any one of those teams could still win the league. Only South Florida and Syracuse, each 1-4 in the league, are out of the race.

Rutgers has 2 games left. This coming Saturday, they host Cincinnati. Then, a week later, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Rutgers goes to East Hartford to play Connecticut.

Suppose Rutgers wins both. They will finish Big East play at 5-2, and be no worse than tied for the Big East Championship -- the first league title in the longest history of any college football team; going back to 1869, Rutgers has never won its league. Okay, Rutgers was never IN a league until the Big East Football Conference was founded in 1991, but they've still never won it. Win it, even a share of it, and they'll go to a much bigger bowl than would have been expected -- including a possible return to Yankee Stadium in the Pinstripe Bowl on December 30.

If Rutgers beats Cincy and UConn, it would have the tiebreakers over Cincy and Pittsburgh -- but not West Virginia, who beat Cincy on Saturday to make some of this possible, or Louisville.

West Virginia still has to go to South Florida, which is a lot tougher at home than on the road, but WVU should still win it. But WVU also still has to play Pitt in "the Backyard Brawl," one of the toughest rivalries in college football -- certainly the nastiest rivalry in the Big East. If Pitt wins, WVU is out of the picture.

Louisville has 3 games left: Home to Pitt, and at UConn and South Florida. USF is as unlikely, even at home, to beat Louisville as they are to beat WVU. But if Louisville loses to either Pitt or UConn, that knocks them out of the title picture.

And, since Rutgers already has the tiebreaker over Pitt, and, with a win over UConn, would have the tiebreaker over them...

Then Rutgers would finally have fulfilled the promise that Greg Schiano brought 10 years ago, to play in a Bowl Championship Series game on, or later than, January 1.

For Rutgers, the impossible has become improbable, but very, very possible.

*

It's been so long since I did one of these countdowns that I had to recalculate some of them.

Days until Arsenal play again in a competitive match: 5, this Saturday afternoon (morning my time), at Norwich City, of Norfolk, England.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 5, this Saturday afternoon, home to the University of Cincinnati.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 10. Come on you Greens, beat the Purple Bastards! Beat The Scum!

Days until the Devils play another local rival: 11, against the New York Islanders, in a day-after-Thanksgiving matinee, Friday, November 25, at the Nassau Coliseum. The first game against The Scum isn't until Tuesday night, December 20, at the Prudential. The next game against the Philadelphia Flyers is a Saturday matinee on January 21, 2012, at the Prudential Center.

Days until the next North London Derby: 103, on Saturday, February 25, at New Highbury. Under 15 weeks. However, this game would be moved if Arsenal or Tottenham advance to the Carling Cup (League Cup) Final, to be held the next day at London's new Wembley Stadium.

Days until the Red Bulls play again: 131, presumably on Saturday night, March 24, 2012, opponent and location to be determined. Under 19 weeks. They were eliminated from the Playoffs by the Los Angeles Galaxy, who will host the Houston Dynamo for the MLS Cup this coming Sunday night.

Days until the Yankees' next Opening Day: 144, on Friday afternoon, April 6, 2012, at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg against the Tampa Bay Rays. Under 5 months.

Days until the Yankees' home opener: 151, on Friday afternoon, April 13, 2012, against the Whatever They'll Be Calling Themselves Next Season Angels of Anaheim.

Days until the last Nets game in New Jersey: 156, on Wednesday night, April 18, 2012, against the Chicago Bulls, at the Prudential Center. Under 7 months before New Jersey no longer has an NBA team. This is, of course, contingent on the current NBA lockout not rearranging the schedule.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 158, on Friday night, April 20, 2012, at Fenway Park in Boston.

Days until the 2012 Olympics begin in London: 256 (July 27). Just over 10 months.

Days until Super Bowl XLVIII at the Meadowlands: 837 (February 2, 2014). A little over 8 months.

Days until Alex Rodriguez collects his 3,000th career hit: 615 (estimated around July 20, 2013). About 20 months.

Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 700th career home run: 888 (estimated).

Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 756th career home run to surpass all-time leader Hank Aaron: 1,722 (estimated).

Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 763rd career home run to become as close to a "real" all-time leader as we are likely to have: 1,753 (estimated -- estimating 28 home runs a year, he should get it late in the 2016 season, maybe around September 1, at age 41).

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