You're not supposed to let anybody leave the league with the trophy. But if Rutgers has their way in 2013, they'll bid their final farewell to the ex-Big East, championship belt hoisted as they head into the Big Ten.
As scandal has surrounded Rutgers' athletic department due to the Mike Rice scandal and subsequent questionable hiring of AD Julie Herrmann, Kyle Flood has kept the football program's heads high above the mess. In his first year as head coach, the Scarlet Knights won nine games and the school's first conference championship. They boasted a competent offense and a lockdown defense, allowing just 14.2 points per game, fourth fewest in the nation, and although they lose both offensive coordinators, much of the talent is left.
In a conference with just nine teams, anybody has a shot at the title -- seriously, four teams won an eight-team Big East last year. Here's a look at Rutgers' path if they want to win it:
2013 Rutgers schedule
Projections from Football Outsiders' 2013 college football almanac.
The obvious game to circle is against Louisville: Charlie Strong's squad returns Teddy Bridgewater, a likely Heisman candidate after a year when he threw for 3,700 yards with 27 touchdowns and just eight interceptions -- and heroics in a matchup against Rutgers. Rutgers would have made a BCS matchup with a win in their regular season finale, and seemed like they had a chance as Bridgewater couldn't start due to a broken wrist. But he played through the pain, tossed two second half touchdowns, and led Louisville to the win. The two teams were part of a four-way tie on top of the conference, but only Louisville got to go to the Sugar Bowl, where they shocked Florida.
Rutgers-Louisville is one of three Thursday night specials Rutgers plays, their first the season opener on the West Coast against a generally strong Fresno State squad, the third against UCF. All three games are road matchups, so they won't get to party all Thursday in Piscataway.
The Scarlet Knights do suffer some key losses: David Brock, last year's offensive coordinator, is now Delaware's head coach, replaced by former Kansas State head coach Ron Prince. Robb Smith, last year's defensive coordinator, joined Rutgers' last head coach, Greg Schiano, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with Dave Cohen earning a promotion. And several key players are gone: five defensive players, including both cornerbacks and stud linebacker Khaseem Greene, were taken in the NFL Draft, and shifty runner Jawan Jamison is gone after a 1,000-yard season.