PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — 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.