Rutgers has one game left until Big Ten in 2014

Rutgers couldn’t ask for a much better way to springboard into

the Big Ten Conference next season than facing Notre Dame in the

Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.

No, Notre Dame isn’t a Big Ten team. And the Pinstripe Bowl

isn’t that elusive BCS game that Rutgers (6-6) would have gone to

for the first time in program history had it won the American

Athletic Conference.

Notre Dame is a storied program that generates a buzz unlike any

other school. Brought back to prominence by Brian Kelly, the

Fighting Irish played for the national championship just a year

ago. While Notre Dame is an independent in football, it plays in

the heart of Big Ten country.

”You think about it, they’re (Rutgers) playing teams of this

caliber every week now when they go to the Big Ten,” senior nose

tackle Isaac Holmes said. ”So setting a good standard for playing

these guys and going out on a W is always going to be a good boost

for those guys going into the Big Ten.”

And Holmes has made sure the younger players on the team know

that.

”That’s exactly what we’ve been preaching to those guys,”

Holmes said. ”This is the type of talented team you’re going to be

playing on a week-in and week-out basis. This is like a dress

rehearsal to get them ready for that next level.”

Not to mention that a win could send Rutgers into its winter

workouts on a more positive note after an inconsistent season. The

4-1 start was followed by a 2-5 finish that included embarrassing

one-side losses to Louisville, Houston, Cincinnati and Central

Florida.

There will be a quarterback competition in the spring with

senior Chas Dodd making his final start in the Pinstripe Bowl after

starting the final two regular season games.

Senior Gary Nova, who started 23 straight games before being

unseated by Dodd, will have to fend off redshirt freshman Chris

Laviano and redshirt sophomore Blake Rankin to regain the starting

job.

The defense will look to rebound under a yet to be named

defensive coordinator after giving up 4,872 yards thus far this

season – the third worst in school history – and ranking No. 67

nationally in total defense. It was a swift fall from a top 10

overall defense a season ago that lost seven starters and saw nine

players with NFL teams at some point this past season.

Rutgers had won five straight bowl games before losing to

Virginia Tech in the Russell Athletic Bowl last season.

”It’s good to finish on a strong positive note,” Dodd said.

”Obviously, it hasn’t went the way we’ve wanted it to this season

and because of that, we’ve been given this opportunity and now we

have to make the most of it and if we do then it’s only going to

make it better for everyone involved.”

Winning the game is the difference between an above or below

.500 season.

”I think that’s big because when you’re under .500 it just

shows that you’re even below mediocre,” junior linebacker Kevin

Snyder said. ”But if you can get above .500 – especially in a

season where we had the struggles that we had, it really sends you

off on a good note and makes you feel a little bit better about

yourself.”

Rutgers needs after reeling for much of the last two months as

it got set for its inaugural year in the Big Ten.

”You win a game and especially a game of this magnitude; you

get a game against a team like Notre Dame that’s such a storied

program, and that could really jettison you into a new conference

that we’re going into,” Snyder said. ”So you get a win against

these guys – that’s huge because really it just gives us a little

more respect out of people and obviously that will help with your

recruiting and everything else.”