Rutgers' revival improves Big East's reputation

Updated: September 26, 2006, 1:21 PM ET
By Rod Gilmore | Special to ESPN.com
Rutgers is in the Top 25? You're kidding, right? That Rutgers? The Rutgers that went 27 years without appearing in postseason play? The Rutgers that hasn't been nationally ranked since 1976? Yep, that Rutgers. Rutgers (aka State University of New Jersey or SUNJ) is finally back in the Top 25 -- at No. 23. So what does that say about the Big East Conference?

Brian Leonard
Jim O'Connor/US PresswireBrian Leonard and Ray Rice make up one of the nation's most formidable backfields.
Just a couple of years ago, the Big East was gutted when Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech abandoned the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference. Many called for the Big East to be stripped of its automatic bid to the Bowl Championship Series. However, with West Virginia and Louisville in the top 10, the Big East is recovering nicely. The Big East could be considered on par with other BCS conferences, but only if Rutgers is recognized as a legitimate Top 25 team. Will the college football community overlook Rutgers' weak history and give credit to this Rutgers team?

I believe Rutgers is a legitimate Top 25 team. Coach Greg Schiano patiently has rebuilt the program. He has done exactly what he said he would do when he took the job six years ago: (1) get some of New Jersey's and New York's top recruits to stay home and (2) recruit speed from the state of Florida, where he was a hot defensive coordinator at Miami. Except for a few significant exceptions (e.g., losing wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett to USC and safety Myron Rolle to Florida State), Schiano has made good on those promises. He has kept key high school players home (e.g., running back Ray Rice and redshirt freshman quarterback Jabu Lovelace) and has 21 players from Florida on his roster.

Rod Gilmore

College Football analyst
Rod Gilmore serves as an ESPN studio analyst on SportsCenter and College Football Live, and provides commentary on ESPN's Friday night game telecasts. He writes regularly for ESPN Insider.