Staff Picks: Who Should Replace Rutgers In The Big Ten?

Rutgers is about to finish its sixth season as a member of the Big Ten, and if the Scarlet Knights fall to the Nittany Lions this weekend, it’ll mark the third time the team has finished a season without any in-conference wins.

The Scarlet Knights have been the punching bag and the butt of Big Ten jokes since they entered the conference. But after six years, those who played devil’s advocate by saying “Oh, they just need time to adjust to the more competitive conference” are realizing that maybe the Scarlet Knights maybe just aren’t cut out for the Power 5.

After this past week’s hiring fiasco in which Rutgers missed out on bringing back Greg Schiano, the man who made Rutgers football good enough to even be considered an addition to the Big Ten, we decided to take a guess as to what college football team would replace the Scarlet Knights in the Big Ten in case The Rutgers Experiment is nearing its end.

Andy Mollenauer: Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish have already joined the Big Ten for men’s hockey, so what better next step than to join this great conference for football? Plus, unlike Rutgers, Notre Dame is actually a real football school and had a competitive team that would match up well with powerhouses like Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State. Notre Dame needs a home anyway, as the school is independent, and doesn’t belong to a conference. Joining the Big Ten would put Notre Dame in the company of other quality football programs, and they, unlike Rutgers and Maryland, deserve to be there.

Will Pegler: Appalachian State 

Excuse my French, but I fucking love the Mountaineers. The team currently boasts a 10-1 record and is undoubtedly the top dog in the Sun Belt Conference. It’s also a known fact that Appalachian State always plays talented Big Ten teams tough, as the Mountaineers famously took down No. 5 Michigan at the Big House 34-32 in 2007 and nearly beat Penn State in 2018. The Nittany Lions were down by a touchdown with less than two minutes remaining, and needed every bit of Trace McSorley magic and an Amani Oruwariye interception to escape victorious — in case you needed a reminder of that one.

My point is that the Mountaineers can clearly hang in the Big Ten, and their gritty, never-give-up style of play would fit perfectly in the conference. If anything, let’s give the Mountaineers a chance to play Rutgers, and the winner will earn the spot in the conference. I’d go as far as to guarantee a victory for Appalachian State over the abysmal Scarlet Knights.

Matt Ogden: Cincinnati

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: “another team from Ohio? Isn’t one trip to that awful state every two years bad enough?” Yes, I do agree with you for the most part, but Cincinnati is by far the nicest and coolest city in that God-forsaken state. It actually has personality, unlike Columbus, which could be mistaken for any city in Middle America with a few buildings higher than 10 stories.

And Cincinnati’s college football team isn’t half bad either. The Bearcats are ranked No. 19 in the latest College Football Playoff ranking, own a 10-1 record on the season with the only loss coming to that other football team from Ohio, and have accomplished impressive victories against UCLA, then-ranked UCF, and Temple.

The Bearcats cleaned up the East Division of the American Athletic Conference this year and have already clinched a spot in the AAC Championship against either Memphis or Navy. If they finish strong and coast to a second AAC title since the conference reorganized from the Big East in 2013, it goes without saying that Cincinnati might be too big of a fish in the AAC pond, and a possible conference switch with Rutgers seems more and more believable.

Owen Abbey: Pitt

The irony of this doesn’t pass me, especially after head coach Pat Narduzzi’s comments about how “weak” the Big Ten is. But the thing is, Pitt is a legit candidate to join the conference. The Panthers are a laughing stock in the ACC, and I do not doubt for a second the conference would be somewhat interested in letting Pitt go. Pitt’s location in Pennsylvania, presence in major sports, and the fact there is somewhat a rivalry with Penn State makes a very intriguing addition to the conference. 

Now, any team is better than Rutgers. So Pitt being added to the conference would elevate the Big Ten. It may not be a Notre Dame-level team, but it is a better team nonetheless. And it would benefit not just football but basketball as well. The elevated level of competition will make the various NCAA committees look more seriously at the strength of schedule of the Big Ten.

Mikey Mandarino: No One

Three words: addition by subtraction. If Rutgers is forced to leave the Big Ten after this weekend’s public disaster of botched negotiations with a coach, the conference should honestly just leave things the way they are. You can make the argument that football’s divisions would be uneven without the Scarlet Knights, but let’s not kid ourselves: Are they really even now? The numbers might say that each division has seven teams, but we’re approaching the territory where Rutgers’ status as a real football program should be questioned.

The only real casualty of dropping Rutgers from the Big Ten would come from wrestling, which is actually half-decent in Piscataway. Some other logistical issues might pop up in re-formatting the conference’s basketball tournaments, but those headaches would be well worth getting rid of an absolute eyesore in Rutgers.

Anthony Fiset: The JoePa Statue

If Rutgers ever leaves the Big Ten, either voluntarily or by force, it would be long overdue. However, I suppose the conference would be obligated to find a replacement for its unwanted bastard child. Though the perfect replacement is not another school but a statue — the JoePa Statue. Once it comes out from its secret hiding spot and gets dusted off, the statue will be in perfect shape to replace Rutgers’ pathetic athletic program in the Big Ten. It may not be easy for a statue to win in any athletic endeavor, but surely a bronze statue with a concrete base can do better at preventing a team from scoring 50 points than the Scarlet Knights’ Swiss cheese defense.

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