Rutgers Can Play Spoiler Against Wake Forest in Gator Bowl

@RFootball on Twitter

Rutgers Can Play Spoiler Against Wake Forest in Gator Bowl

NCAA

Rutgers Can Play Spoiler Against Wake Forest in Gator Bowl

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@RFootball on Twitter

Rutgers accepted an invitation to the Gator Bowl following an announcement from Texas A&M that the Aggies would not be able to compete in the game due to COVID-19 issues. The Scarlet Knights will hope to pull off a short notice upset against No. 17 Wake Forest on Dec. 31.

It was unclear if the Gator Bowl was going to happen after the Aggies pulled out of the bowl, but they were able to find a late replacement in Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights will be able to play one more game in 2021 against a top-20 opponent.

At the end of the regular season, Rutgers failed to earn bowl eligibility with a 5-7 record. They went 1-3 in their final four games and ended the regular season on a two-game losing streak. In the final game of the season against Maryland, Rutgers had a chance to become bowl eligible but they fell to the Terrapins, 40-16, at SHI Stadium in Piscataway, N.J. Both teams were 5-6 heading into the game and the Terrapins guaranteed themselves a bowl game bid with the 24-point win over Rutgers on Nov. 27.

The game was out of reach for the Scarlet Knights after the first half when they trailed 20-2. They posted 14 points in the third quarter but Maryland pulled away with another 20 points in the second half. It was an agonizing loss for Rutgers because their hopes of playing in a postseason game evaporated against their Big Ten foe.

Fast forward one month and the Scarlet Knights’ season is still alive. Rutgers is scheduled to play in their first bowl game since 2014 when they beat North Carolina in the Quick Lane Bowl. Rutgers went to nine bowl games from 2005-2014.

Head coach Greg Schiano was there for six of those bowl appearances before he accepted a head coaching job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012. He returned to Rutgers in December 2019 and he instantly changed the tenor of the football program. Although Rutgers is only in a bowl game due to extenuating circumstances from the pandemic, there is a chance at reviving a once-prominent college football program.

The Scarlet Knights were led on offense by quarterback Noah Vedral who threw for 1,726 passing yards and seven touchdowns this season. Vedral is second on the team in rushing with 280 yards this season. The top rusher is running back Isaih Pacheco, who ran for 647 yards and five touchdowns.

This season was a group effort for the Scarlet Knights where they had several players step into different roles. Backup quarterback Johnny Langan became the team’s Swiss Army knife with duties in the backfield as a running back. Langan hauled in 12 receptions as a wide receiver during the 2021 season for 120 yards. In order to beat the Demon Deacons on Friday, they will need a collective effort from their utility players.

The Demon Deacons finished their regular season ranked as the No. 17 team in the country. On Dec. 4, they fell to the Pittsburgh Panthers in the ACC Championship Game, 45-21. Wake Forest enters this bowl game as a big favorite over the Scarlet Knights.

The Demon Deacons had an impressive season, as they ended with a 10-3 record and claimed an ACC Atlantic Division title. They had a 7-1 conference record and a 3-1 non-conference record.

In every game except for the ACC Championship, the Demon Deacons scored at least 35 points against their opponents. If the Gator Bowl is anything like the regular season for the Demon Deacons, this will be a high-scoring contest. Rutgers will look to take a page out of Pitt’s defensive playbook against quarterback Sam Hartman, who threw four interceptions in the ACC Championship Game.

Wake Forest is eyeing an 11-win season for the first time since 2006, while the Scarlet Knights are trying to reach six wins for the first time since 2014. Rutgers will have an incredible opportunity to deliver one of the biggest upsets of the season on Friday. A win at the Gator Bowl could inject a profusion of energy into a dormant program.

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