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|No pressure Greg -- it's just your school's biggest game in 137 years.|
Yes, we know that the game Rutgers and Princeton played 137 years ago did not much resemble football as we've come to know it -- and that other schools have tried to claim that it was them that played the first "real" intercollegiate contest years later. That's not the point. You're either the first organism that crawls out of the water and starts living on land, or you're not -- even if you don't exactly resemble Secretariat or Mr. Universe at the moment of transition. So, let us agree then that college football -- not to mention its overgrown stepchild, the National Football League -- owes its very fiber to these two New Jersey universities. What is to be done about it? For their part, Princeton made a conscious effort years ago to remove itself from big-time football consideration. It, along with seven of the other eight Colonial Colleges (called so because they were awarding degrees before the American Revolution), operates in Division I-AA. The Tigers boast a 7-1 record this year, and have a shot at the Ivy League title. That's a nice season, but Princeton's being upstaged so far by the one Colonial College that does play Division I-A ball: Rutgers. Many people are calling Thursday night's showdown the most important game in Rutgers football history -- at least since Day 1, anyway. It's true that the 1990s and the early part of the 21st century were not good times for the program. It's also true that the team has rarely pushed its way into the national spotlight since kicking the door open four years after the Civil War ended. Which isn't to say there haven't been highlights -- it's just that what few there have been came before ESPN started showing games on Thursday nights. After getting the ball rolling (literally, since only kicking was allowed in the first game), Rutgers pretty much tanked the rest of the 19th century. It had brief bursts of competence in the 20th, like going 14-2-2 between 1923 and 1924, and 14-2-1 between 1938 and 1939. The 1946-48 squads were a combined 22-5, and the 1960 and 1961 teams were a combined 17-1, with '61 being the school's first undefeated season since it won its sole game in 1876. The mid-to-late '70s were boom years as well, as the Scarlet Knights were 45-11 from 1975 through 1979. This included their only other undefeated season in 1976 -- en route to an 11-0 record, Rutgers beat Louisville 34-0 three decades ago this week.
|Rutgers needs to score plenty against Louisville -- and would need plenty of help to get to the national championship game.|