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Rutgers accepts invitation to Gator Bowl to face No. 17 Wake Forest

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The Scarlet Knights will return to a bowl game for the first time since 2014.

NCAA Football: Delaware at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The ultimate goal for the 2021 season has been achieved — and not in the way that was expected.

Rutgers has accepted an invitation to play in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl on New Year’s Eve in Jacksonville. The Scarlet Knights will take on No. 17 Wake Forest after No. 25 Texas A&M was forced to back out after a recent COVID outbreak.

The Gator Bowl is currently scheduled for Friday, December 31 at 11:30 a.m.

This will be the first appearance in a Bowl game for Rutgers since the 2014 Quick Lane Bowl. This was a 40-21 win for the Scarlet Knights over another ACC opponent in North Carolina.

We are so excited to be part of the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, the sixth oldest bowl in the country. It’s a great moment for our student-athletes and coaching staff,” said Rutgers Athletic Director Pat Hobbs. “This program has made great strides under the leadership of head coach Greg Schiano and what better way to showcase that than at the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl on New Year’s Eve. It is an equally exciting time for our Rutgers fans to be part of this marquee game.”

“This is an exciting time for Rutgers,” said head coach Greg Schiano. “I’m so happy for our players to be able to experience a great bowl game atmosphere. Anytime you can go out and test yourself against the country’s top talent, it creates a tremendous opportunity for our players to grow and develop. We are looking forward to having the chance to CHOP one more time in 2021.”

The Scarlet Knights finished their season with a 40-16 loss to Maryland in what was believed to be a win-and-in game for two teams looking for bowl qualification. Rutgers will now have that as it is the team with the highest Academic Progress Rate score. This is how 5-7 teams are chosen to participate in bowls if there are not enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all slots.

With the Aggies out, the Scarlet Knights will return to a bowl in Greg Schiano’s second year back in Piscataway.

Rutgers will take on a talented offense for Wake Forest (10-3) that likes to go fast and can light up a scoreboard. It will be interesting to see how the Scarlet Knights matchup, especially with many key players declaring for the NFL draft.

Several starters for Rutgers have already announced the intention to make the jump to the NFL. This includes Bo Melton, Olakunle Fatukasi, Isaih Pacheco, Mike Tverdove, and Julius Turner — among others. These players would have to receive eligibility waivers if they have already signed with an agent. This, of course, is if they want to play in the game. Many players forgo the opportunity to prepare for the next level.

If Rutgers does not see some key players return, this game would be a chance to give some playing time to guys who will have to step into big roles next season. This includes Gavin Wimsatt, who can play in one more game and still be able to redshirt.

The Scarlet Knights will have to get their team together to play in eight days after what has been more than a month off. Schiano and staff have their hands full to get the team ready to play this game.

This might not be the route that everyone expected but we have learned over the last two years that anything is possible in sports and nothing is guaranteed. If all goes right over the next week with Covid protocols , the Scarlet Knights will be playing in the biggest Bowl game in program history.