If Rutgers goes to a bowl game in Greg Schiano’s first season back at the helm, the Scarlet Knights are going to earn it. Not take advantage of a fortuitous NCAA ruling brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Division-1 football oversight committee recommended all bowl eligibility rules be waived this season on Thursday, eliminating the general requirement that teams have a .500 record against FBS opponents in order to accept a bid. The recommendation still needs to be approved by the Division-1 Council in October, but that is expected.
Few, if any, schools will play 12 games this fall, and the number of games each school plays will vary wildly across the country. So will the makeup of schedules, with some FBS schools playing multiple games against FCS schools out of necessity. We will remember 2020 as the year of flexibility in college football, and this is a logical next step in that process.
And yes, this proposal does open the door for teams with few (and potentially no) wins to accept bowl bids. But the odds of that happening grow longer each day, and it seems particularly unlikely to happen for Rutgers. Here’s why:
Simple math: An unofficial count indicates there are 40 bowl games still scheduled to be played at the end of this season, including the two College Football Playoff semifinals. That means 80 bowl teams. There are now roughly 115 FBS teams expected to play this season after the Pac-12 and Mountain West voted to return Thursday night, and the MAC will likely be back in business within the next few days as well. We are very close to all 130 FBS programs playing this fall, which means the selection process, once eligibility is addressed, should be relatively normal.
The Rose Bowl: It’s a CFP semifinal this year. That works against the Big Ten, which in turn works against Rutgers. If Ohio State makes the playoff, it could be the only Big Ten team that appears in a New Year’s Six bowl. The conference could still get a second team into a prestige bowl, but it is not as easy in years when the Rose Bowl is a playoff game.
Big Ten tie-ins: The conference has a deal to provide a team with eight bowl games now after the Redbox Bowl became the first postseason event to announce it would not be held this season. That means even if the conference somehow duplicates last year’s feat, with a CFP team and two other teams in New Year’s Six bowls, it only needs 11 of 14 league members to satisfy its contracts. That means three Big Ten teams would not have a league-connected bid available.
No wild cards: If there are no eligibility standards, every league should be able to fulfill its contracts. That would likely eliminate the possibility of a few stray bowls having openings that need to be filled at the last minute.
The bottom line: Could Rutgers back into a bowl game with a poor record this season? It’s possible, but it would likely require something unexpected, like the MAC not playing this fall and leaving a bunch of slots open, or a rash of schools declining bowl bids for various reasons. If Schiano coaches a bowl game in his first year back, it’s almost assuredly going to be because the Scarlet Knights earned it.
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James Kratch may be reached at [email protected]
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