ESPN.com reminds us today by announcing numbers 51-74 in their ranking of the 119 Division I-A football teams over the past decade. Rutgers comes in at number 70, with a .339 winning percentage (39-76) over that span. How low would their ranking be, and how much lower would their winning percentage be without last year's 11-2 campaign? Would the Knights be down in the nineties? Or in the triple digits with Temple and Duke and Buffalo?
In the accompanying article by Bruce Feldman about these midlist teams, the Knights are recognized as a team on their way up:
Of the group of teams in this part of the list, I think there are seven programs with a shot at really moving up: Minnesota (T-52), Pitt (T-52), Washington (T-52), Michigan State (55), North Carolina (67), South Florida (58) and Rutgers (70). If I had to pick three with the best shot of sticking, I'd go with Pitt, UNC and Rutgers.Rutgers is obviously the farthest along. The Scarlet Knights have a growing fan base. They have strong connections in both the Northeast and Florida. They have a hot coach who sounds as if he is going to be around for a long time. And they are beginning to reap the benefits of their success because they are getting better-caliber prospects out of south Florida and they have begun to fend off the big boys for the best in-state players (namely, prized OT Anthony Davis and OLB Manny Abreu).
Notice though that it's not just the Knights on their way up, it's also the Big East, with USF and Pitt also poised to move into the top tier. The competition's going to be tough for years to come.