Rutgers may be newbies to the Big Ten, but bowl games in both Dallas and Detroit took notice of what the Scarlet Knights did in their inaugural season.
Rutgers (7-5, 3-5) sits with the rest of bottom-tier teams in the Big Ten pool of eligible programs. The conference faces a scenario where one school missed out pending the result of the Big Ten championship game and where Ohio State lands.
Can a 7-5 Rutgers with a win over Maryland miss out on a bowl game? It is possible, but executive director Brant Ringler does not think it happens.
“I think they’ll be all right,” said Ringler, who represents the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl. “I really do.”
Dallas gets the last selection in the Big Ten, which means the school not selected could miss out entirely with 80 schools eligible for 76 spots.
“We’re the last selection, so we’re pretty much going to be handed a team from the Big Ten,” Ringler said. “Depending on whether two play up or three play up in the Big Ten is still in question, so that’s kind of where we stand.”
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany plays a key role in the selection process, but bowls receive information and lobbying from the schools involved.
Dallas and Detroit both receive information from the schools, hearing yesterday from Rutgers and athletic director Julie Hermann.
“I guess we can pick and choose a little bit, but what are the two teams that are left? Is it Rutgers and Maryland? Rutgers beat Maryland,” Ringler said. “Is it Illinois and Maryland? What are the teams? I guess there are some scenarios in which we might have a selection, but it’s pretty cut and try when it comes down to us.”
The overflow spells good news for the Detroit Lions, whose Quick Lane bowl is in its inaugural season.
Detroit gets a team prior to Dallas from the Big Ten, and wants the best matchup possible for its city.
“We’ve had meetings with both conferences and discussed teams that could play in the game,” said director of corporate communications Ben Manges. “Every bowl game that has a tie to the Big Ten conference, they suggest teams that they think would work well in their markets. Then of course the Big Ten looks at what will be the best potential matchups with other conferences. In this case, that’s the ACC.”
Rutgers and Maryland may both have matchup advantages with the ACC, especially with teams like Boston College and Miami as possible opponents. Miami and Boston College have New Jersey heavy rosters and rivalries dating back to the old Big East. Maryland is six months removed from the ACC, creating interesting matchup possibilities of its own.
Illinois (6-6, 3-5) projects to out-draw either Maryland or Rutgers in Detroit with a significantly easier commute.
When asked about best matchup vs. which school draws best, Manges firmly sided with the matchup.
“For us, it’s all about the matchup and I won’t even hesitate with that one,” Manges said. “At the end of the day, this is our first game. We’re banking on helping to institute a new, and better and greater bowl tradition at Ford Field in the years to come. Locally, we have great football fans. We have two Big Ten schools in our backyard and the Detroit Lions are one of the original NFL teams. … We really believe that if we bring the best possible matchup to Ford Field, whether it’s ticket sales or how the game plays on national television, that will be the best product. That’s ultimately what we’re interested in is promoting the best product.”