Rutgers came just short of earning an automatic postseason bowl berth in 2021. Greg Schiano led his team to a 5-7 record during the second season of his second stint with the Scarlet Knights, just short of the six-win threshold to become bowl eligible.
As such, it seemed as though Rutgers’ postseason drought — the second-longest among Power 5 teams behind only Kansas — would continue for a seventh consecutive season.
But now, things have changed, and it looks like the Scarlet Knights will be heading to a bowl game after all.
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Rutgers is expected to replace Texas A&M in the Gator Bowl, per multiple reports including The Athletic . The Aggies are dealing with a COVID outbreak along with some other roster concerns, so they will not be able to field a team.
“It is unfortunate, but we just don’t have enough scholarship players available to field a team,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said, per the team’s official website .
As a result, the Gator Bowl organizers had to scramble to replace Texas A&M, and Rutgers topped the list of potential replacements. Why? It was all about their Academic Progress Rate, as The Athletic explained.
Rutgers has the highest Academic Progress Rate (APR) score among all available 5-7 teams, which should give them the nod. Bowl selection guidelines allow for teams with 5-7 records to be awarded bowl bids based on APR scores in the event there are not enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all bowl slots nationally.
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If Rutgers accepts the bid as expected, they will have nine days to prepare for a matchup against Wake Forest. That will prove difficult, as the Demon Deacons finished the season with a 10-3 record and are the 17th-ranked team in the country.
Nonetheless, Schiano and Rutgers will likely relish a chance to snap their postseason drought and play in a bowl game for the first time since Kyle Flood led the team to a Quick Lane Bowl win in 2014. That opportunity would outweigh any potential preparation disadvantage, provided that Rutgers can field a team for the contest.
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As for the Aggies, they will finish the season with an 8-4 record but have a feather in their cap as the only team that has beaten No. 1-ranked Alabama to date. Still, their Athletic Director Ross Bjork lamented the “heartbreaking” news that they wouldn’t be able to participate in the contest.
“It is heartbreaking for our players, coaches, staff and fans that we are not able to play in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl,” Bjork said. “Post-season football is the pinnacle of the season and when the opportunity is lost, it hurts on many levels. As we have learned in the last 21 months of this health challenge, the well-being and safety of our student-athletes is paramount.
“Our players poured their heart and soul into this season and we appreciate their dedication as Aggies. Aggie football is on track for long-term success and we know that the best is yet to come.”