For a second straight year and 100% of the B1G 20xx Rutgers weeks, blogger, author and game writer Richard Dansky will be regaling us with some nonsense he drummed up living on tobacoo row. Behold ye mighties:
ARE YOU RUTGERS?
If you look around your conference and don't see Rutgers, you are Rutgers. This is a hard and fast rule of college football - every conference needs themselves a Rutgers to make sure their internal ecosystem remains intact. And by "Rutgers" I mean a very specific thing - the endlessly underperfoming school who wins just enough games to sneak into the Beef O' Brady Bowl equivalent so that the fans of better teams can boast about how many bowl teams they've beaten this year.
Rutgers has perfected this, indeed, they've made it an art form. Squandering the possible talent base that comes from squatting on the doorstep of New York, they're annually just competitive enough to get someone excited around week 8, and annually no real threat to win anything other than a trip to a third-tier bowl located in a city with a singularly uncreative tourist board.
But just because Rutgers is Rutgers doesn't mean they're the only Rutgers. Indeed, each conference has its own Rutgers, specially equipped to go three rounds and drop before there's a chance someone might take them seriously. For example:
THE ACC - NORTH CAROLINA STATE
Under normal circumstances, this would have been Maryland. Really, they're the perfect match - large school near a major city across the border from their oddly-shaped small state, clinging desperately to faded glory. But then Maryland had to go and join the Big N-where-N>10, where they can't be the Rutgers, because Rutgers is already being Rutgers.
Instead, the honor goes to NC State, which has been desperately nipping at the heels of its Triangle brethren for years but couldn't catch a break if it used everything in the entire ACME catalog. Poised for football success at the moment when hated rival UNC seemingly forgot there was a university attached to its athletics department, it instead still took a back seat to, of all things, a resurgent Duke. And for all the optimism their annual late-season charge to a minor bowl inspires, they still have to get there on the backs of their annual showdowns with Presbyterian and Elon. (And whatever you do, don't look at that Presbyterian box score. It's ugly.)
THE SEC - VANDERBILT
Vandy's always been an odd fit for the SEC - a private, academics-first institution lumped in with schools whose football stadiums are the third-largest city in the state on game day. Every few years they manage to attach themselves to something (for purposes of this discussion, Jay Cutler counts as "something") and rise up to the fringes of respectability, only to get severely thumped once they've racked up enough lesser wins to be worth something to the BCS and its ill-mannered successor.
Also, they lost to Temple by 30 last year.
THE PAC-12 - OREGON STATE
You'll have to forgive me on this one, as everyone knows that East Coast football writers don't even know that schools like Oregon State have football teams. Seriously, isn't it all forestry and ultimate Frisbee or something? You'd think they'd recruit some sasquatches for the o-line and have done with it. If nothing else, that would get them back to the level they used to hold, where they'd be just good enough long enough to make people worry they might actually beat their cross-state rival and mess up the polls. But that hasn't happened in a while, or at least since anyone east of Puyallup noticed.
Like Rutgers, Other Other OSU lives in the shadow of a better known amateur franchise. For Oregon State, it's Oregon, where they're forced to change uniforms after each touchdown in order to keep up with the endless outtakes from Steven Tyler's drug-induced nightmares that Nike keeps giving them for uniforms. For Rutgers, It's the Jets.
THE BIG 12 - IOWA STATE
One of the greatest ongoing debates in college football is whether Iowa State is actually in the Big 12 or not. Entirely sensible people refuse to believe it, largely because they can't tell Iowa and Iowa State apart and they're pretty sure one of them is in the Big East anyway.
In any case, ISU jumps to the head of the pack on this one largely by dint of not actually being from Texas or Oklahoma. Kansas isn't good enough and KSU is too good (when they're good) to qualify, which means ISU is pretty much it. But that's fine, because every year ISU manages to sneak up on one team that ought to beat them like scalloppine and steal a win. Mostly, though, they hover right in that Rutgersian zone of mediocrity where they're nutritious looking fodder for bigger predators and cheap programming for ESPN when they're looking for a bowl game to broadcast on December 27th up against Real Housewives marathons.
Bonus points to ISU for getting blitzed by Actual Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl in 2011. When you're so Rutgers you can't even beat Rutgers, you're really Rutgers.
BONUS CONTENT - THE AAC - UCONN
In their glory days in the Big East, Rutgers briefly surged up to national prominence while being coached by a complete snailfart of a human being, who fled to fail at a bigger job. Connecticut, tagging along like the little yappy dog in an old Warner Brothers cartoon, did the exact same thing under former coach and fellow mollusk-poot Randy Edsall. Edsall abandoned his team on the eve of their first, last and only BCS game without so much as the stones to say goodbye to his players personally. Instead, he built himself a wingsuit out of the money shoved at him by Maryland and flew to College Park to start a new era of polychromatic mediocrity.
That was in 2010, and since then the Huskies have slid backwards into mediocrity. Every year there's optimism in Storrs that they'll win 1/3rd as many games as either of the school's basketball teams, and every year, it all comes crashing down. Oh, and like Rutgers, they've been looking to bail on the conference for years.
One would think that with schools like Temple and Rutgers' old poll running mate USF in the fold, the competition for the coveted status of "the new Rutgers" would be fierce. But truly, no team in the conference excites as much hope or settles for as much "meh" at the end of the year.
It is, in a phrase, perfectly Rutgers.
Thanks to Richard for putting together a fantastic article and thanks so much to the energetic and awesome fans that made Rutgers week one to remember!
Finally, don't forget to check out Sportsthodoxy, "The Waldorf and Statler of sports blogging, with friends!" and post lots of angry gifs on Richard's wall. Especially ones about Sasquatches.
FRIDAY - Self Hate: "Are You Rutgers?" by Sportsthodoxy's Richard Dansky (You Are Here)