It's official: the Rutgers Scarlet Knights are in the Gator Bowl to take on the #17 Demon Deacons
By nature, college football is a number of things. It evokes passion, can galvanize a campus (and its alumni and fan base), and of course, on any given Saturday (or Friday, Thursday, Tuesday, or any day a game is played), the unexpected can happen.
The December 23rd (2021) opening press conference for the 77th TaxSlayer Gator Bowl (click HERE to visit their website) only adds to the lore of the game. Due to reported Covid issues with 25th ranked Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4 in SEC play) to where they do not have enough scholarship players to field a team (reportedly, they are down to 38 scholarship players per ESPN), the 17th ranked Wake Forest University Demon Deacons (10-3, 7-1 in ACC play/ACC Atlantic Division Champions) are now taking on the Big 10's Rutgers Scarlet Knights (5-7, 2-7 in conference play).
In speaking with the media, TaxSlayer President/CEO Greg McGarity, along with Rutgers' head coach Greg Schiano and athletic director Pat Hobbs, field questions about the changes made given recent events, along with their focus on the New Year's Eve Six game.
In addition to the NCAA provision of selecting a 5-7 team (teams need 6 wins to be considered bowl eligible) in the event there are not enough available teams, McGarity notes Rutgers' APR ranking (academic reporting on graduation rates) as a key factor which helps bring the Scarlet Knights to the game. The athletic director (Patrick Hobbs) echoes this sentiment given the university's historical and contemporary focus on placing academics first.
While the team closes out regular season play losing 3 of their last 4 games, Schiano feels the team should be ready and excited to take on the task of playing a team in the Demon Deacons whose offense fails to score 35 or more only twice all season. Combined with this being the team's first bowl game appearance since 2014, it is a monumental moment not only in the coach's second stint, but for the student-athletes and essentially, the entire state of New Jersey.
As kickoff approaches (December 31st at 11am EST at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, FL), the show (or in this case) still goes on. After some delays, both teams are even more focused on preparing to play to set the tone for New Year's Eve (day).
Notes: the first video is a clip where HC Schiano fields our question to close out the press conference; the second video is the entire press conference. To visit our playlist for the Gator Bowl, click HERE.