Well, sadly, we have come to the end. As Notre Dame football prepares for one last appearance on our television screens, the internet comments sections lead you to believe that fans have already moved on from the disappointments of 2013 and turned their gaze towards the prospects of 2014. Most Irish media outlets and bloggers have devoted the bulk of their attention to the home stretch of the recruiting season as the Irish look to place the finishing touches on a solid class (see Andrew Hall’s 2014 Mock Recruiting Class article). I personally asked Santa for an off-season devoid of the drama that engulfed the team last year. But let’s not be naive, a quiet off-season starts with a bowl victory.
The Pinstripe Bowl provides a worn senior class the opportunity to exit the stage in style, with Yankee stadium and New York City providing the backdrop. The Irish arrived first class, literally, with a chartered jet and have held bowl practices at the indoor facilities of the Jets and Giants. For Zach Martin, Tommy Rees, Dan Fox and other veterans they deserve each and every reward after four years of anchoring Notre Dame Football’s transition to the Kelly era (not to mention a recent article ranking Notre Dame Football as the second richest program in the country with $117 million in revenue in 2012).
Rutgers, on the other hand, has spent most of the four weeks since season’s end practicing at their facilities in Piscataway, NJ, an hour south of Yankee stadium via the Jersey Turnpike. Where Notre Dame players celebrated Christmas at a hotel in Manhattan, most of Rutgers’ players returned to their families in the tri-state area and enjoyed the comfort of a home cooked meal. The bowl game gives this team a national stage to showcase their ability before next season when the university enters the B1G conference. A move supported by Rutgers enthusiasts but questioned openly by members of the B1G conference. A win could nullify those critics.
Unfortunately for the Scarlett Knights, Vegas has placed them at 14 point underdogs. But be careful to overlook these local boys. As we will discuss, Rutgers has some playmakers and unique toughness that could cause Notre Dame some problems. Let’s take a look at the team from Jersey.