It's the ultimate backdoor to the college football postseason. And it makes no sense for Rutgers.
When last seen all the way back on Thanksgiving weekend, Rutgers was getting absolutely crushed at home by a Maryland team that had lost six of its previous seven games, losing 40-16.
The Scarlet Knights haven't been in a bowl game since 2014, the second-longest bowl drought among Power 5 programs, and the loss meant a bowl invitation again wouldn't be coming.
The team stopped practicing. The top players began the next phase of their careers. The season was over.
But in the world of big time college football, never say never.
All the sudden, after no one spent the last 25 days thinking about or preparing to play a really good Wake Forest team in the Gator Bowl in front of a national TV audience on New Year’s Eve, the Rutgers student-athletes are faced with exactly that.
COVID is raging and Wake Forest’s original opponent, Texas A&M, is reportedly down to just 39 available scholarship players. The Aggies can't play.
Rutgers is replacing Texas A&M.
Just reassemble everybody and try to get ready in eight days?
The Scarlet Knights shouldn't do this.
Wake Forest, featuring a high-octane offense, made it to the ACC Championship game. The Demon Deacons are a better football team than Rutgers and they've been gearing up to play in this game for a couple of weeks.
Someone should have been the voice of reason here. It's certainly wasn't going to be head coach Greg Schiano. Where is school President Jonathan Holloway? Are there no health and safety concerns with short practice time for his football team at a time his basketball team is currently sidelined by COVID?
Here’s the thing. The Gator Bowl is an important game, especially to ESPN and the sponsors. There’s a lot of money to be lost if it gets canceled. Someone has to play Wake Forest. Rutgers had a non-qualifying record this season but got bumped up based on having the highest Academic Progress Rate (APR) score among the 5-7 teams.
That's why when the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee met Thursday to figure out what to do with the Gator Bowl, panel members handed the ball off to Rutgers.
The chances of the Scarlet Knights having a good showing against Wake Forest, given how badly they were playing at the end of the regular season, are slim. And a blowout loss in a high-profile spot can’t be good for recruiting.
It would have been best to just sit this one out.
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Rutgers' Gator Bowl bid is a bad idea vs. Wake Forest