Update: Rutgers is officially playing in the Gator Bowl
At the end of the day of a long courtship, Rutgers said yes. The Scarlet Knights appear to have clinched an unexpected invitation to the Gator Bowl only nine days out from the game taking place.
An initial report on Wednesday from Brett McMurphy stated that Rutgers turned down an invitation. However, soon after Pete Thamel reported that there was actually interest from RU.
On Wednesday night, several reports surfaced that the Scarlet Knights were on the verge of officially playing Wake Forest (10-3) next Friday, December 31.
The last step appears to be the NCAA Oversight Committee needing to sign off on the matchup on Thursday. Per McMurphy, they will discussing health and safety concerns based on the circumstances that would involve Rutgers playing.
NCAA Oversight Committee meets Thursday to determine Wake Forest’s Gator Bowl opponent, sources told @ActionNetworkHQ. Rutgers (or any 5-7 team) "is not done deal” because of health & safety concerns since those 5-7 teams haven’t practiced in nearly 4 weeks & game is 9 days away— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) December 23, 2021
Increased risk of injury and Covid protocols are two major physical hurdles to conquer in reality, even if the committee approves their inclusion.
Initially I didn’t think Rutgers had a choice to make because actually being able to play the game seemed so far fetched and unrealistic. It still does.
This game provides a tremendous opportunity for the players, coaches and staff who all work really hard and deserve it. At 5-7, the Scarlet Knights are believed to hold the top APR score of any newly eligible teams and therefore are first in line to receive a bowl bid.
That being said, Rutgers will be at an extreme competitive disadvantage due to a depleted roster and no practice time up until this point.
While those are rational concerns, they are drowned out by the noise of money being the driving force in this decision. The Big Ten has an opportunity to add to its pot with an extra team.
Perhaps after a roller coaster turn of events, Rutgers can step up and pull off a miracle next weekend in Jacksonville, Florida.
Beating a 10-win Wake Forest team on less than two weeks notice after not practicing for almost a month seems impossible for RU to achieve. It would be a monumental upset if they did it. They might not actually even approach kickoff if Rutgers can’t get enough players cleared to play through Covid-19 protocols.
The news cycle changes so quickly these days. For Rutgers to survive the unique set of circumstances they’re in, they need to stay healthy. Hopefully, this team gets to game day and make the most of the opportunity. I do think the logistics that need to be executed make that possibility unlikely.
Stay tuned on Thursday as more details are likely to emerge regarding the Gator Bowl and Rutgers. Here is a podcast episode recorded on Thursday to discuss the latest on this possibility.