Posted: 6:00 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013
Should this game feel bigger than it does?
New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Saturday, 12:00 pm ET, ESPN
Suggested slogan: It's New York's team against the Yankees of college football in the New York Yankees' stadium.
How Notre Dame got here: The Irish came down from their high of the national title game appearance of a year ago, which is mostly normal for programs other than Alabama and LSU. It was a very inconsistent team, doing inexplicable things like losing to Michigan and then two weeks later giving Michigan State its only loss of the season. It beat Purdue by a touchdown, but it only lost to Stanford by a touchdown. Part of the randomness was just being in a lot of close games, as seven of its contests had final margins of seven points or less. Part of it also is being a bad turnover team, with a negative margin on the year and 13 INTs from Tommy Rees. It was a solid season, but given the program's history, it was an eminently forgettable one too.
How Rutgers got here: There is some amount of poetic symbolism here, with the program that's supposed to deliver New York City TV sets to the Big Ten Network playing in the Big Apple in its final game before joining the league. The Scarlet Knights' season seemed to start OK, with only an overtime loss to Fresno State and a win over Arkansas in the first month. Starting with an October 10 loss to Louisville, the rest of the way stank. In the team's final seven games, five were losses and the wins were only over eventual 2-10 teams. It even gave UConn one of its three wins. Its best win was either Arkansas or 5-7 SMU, and it's a powerful argument that there are simply too many bowl games.
College football fans care because: They're supposed to care about Notre Dame?
SEC fans care because: They generally like to root against Notre Dame, I guess.
Watch this game if...: Notre Dame does something for you, because Rutgers ain't bringing anything to the table here.
Bottom line: Notre Dame is a mostly decent, if flawed, team. Rutgers is a bad, bad football team. This Notre Dame team would have made a bowl in past years when there weren't 500 of them. Rutgers probably shouldn't have made one this year, with the 500 bowl games. Need I go on?
Brandon's pick: Notre Dame 35, Rutgers 21
Line: Notre Dame by 14