by Todd Helmick
November 6, 2006

Let the BCS nightmare begin. This Thursday on ESPN, undefeated Louisville (#3 in the BCS) heads to New Brunswick, NJ to do battle with undefeated Rutgers (#13 in the BCS). The big question this week: Does Louisville belong in the national championship game if they run the table?

Well, listening to ESPN all weekend, the big answer is absolutely - Louisville belongs. But when people like the well-respected Kirk Herbsteit and Mark May are asked the same question about Rutgers (should they run the table), the smirks on faces were tough to disguise. “No way!” seems to be the definitive answer.

Wait a minute…Rutgers in the National Championship Game? My gosh, the FOX network stockholders just fell off their thrones, for FOX currently owns the broadcasting rights to the BCS National Championship Game. Rutgers is a probable rating’s nightmare. Heck, the first college football game ever played was in 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton on a plot of ground where the present-day Rutgers gymnasium now stands. Hence, in 137 years of football existence, Rutgers has been to just two bowl games and lost them both.

In some regards, not too much has changed since that inaugural meeting. An analytical account of the first college game every played appeared in the November, 1869 issue of the Targum, Rutgers’ undergraduate newspaper. “To describe the varying fortunes of the match, game by game, would be a waste of labor, for every game was like the one before,” wrote the student reporter. “There was the same headlong running, wild shouting, and frantic kicking."

Headlong running? The same analogy would fit both Rutgers’ RBs (Ray Rice and Brian Leonard) today. As for the wild shouting, tune in Thursday night - this game represents the biggest matchup in Rutgers Football history…all 137 years worth.

With the media love affair concerning the newly realigned Big East Conference (which surely has exceeded all expectations up to this point), why shouldn’t Rutgers play for all the marbles if they run the rest of the table? Plain and simple, if Rutgers – which plays the exact same conference slate as the Cardinals - does not belong, then neither does Louisville. The hypocrites claiming that the Big East is currently one of the better conferences outside the SEC have flown the coo-coos nest if Rutgers doesn’t share the same privilege.

Most every poll voter has the same gut feeling, that Louisville is not a better team than one-loss Texas, Florida, Auburn, USC or California, if all these teams continue to run their course given the scheduling disparities. Credit Louisville for going out and adding toughie Miami to their 2006 schedule, something the other Big East frontrunners failed to do in terms of fortifying their non-conference opponents. Despite the Hurricanes’ current slide, this may be just enough to put the Cards over the top in the polls. Really, not too many longtime college football followers have a problem with UL knowing how top billing is set up for teams that finish undefeated…so, more power to Louisville if they go unscathed.

However, claiming in the same breath that Rutgers would not belong is a slap in the face to the Big East. Commissioner Michael Tranghese was quoted last week in the build up to the WVU vs. Louisville game. “Any team that goes undefeated while playing in a BCS Conference deserves the right to play for the national championship.” He just forgot to add, “Depending on what type of television ratings your program delivers.”