Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Beating The B1G

TigerBlog drove over the Route 1 bridge from Pennsylvania into New Jersey yesterday.

To his left he saw the iconic "Trenton Makes, The World Takes" letters on the adjacent bridge, which he has always called "the Trenton Makes Bridge" but which is actually called the Lower Trenton Bridge and which when built in 1806 was the first bridge across the Delaware River.

At least that's what Wikipedia says.

To his right off the bridge was Arm & Hammer Park, formerly Waterfront Park, the home of the Trenton Thunder. It's actually a pretty nice view of Trenton - a city that TB has lived and worked in - from that bridge.

The billboard on the far end of the bridge is part of a great marketing campaign by the state university. It says "Big Time Academics. Big 10 Athletics." Or maybe "Big Ten."

That's the perfect message for Rutgers University. As TigerBlog has said often, of any school that changed conferences in the last five years, none can say with a straight face that it did so with academics in mind more than Rutgers.

The move from the Atlantic 10 to the Big East that RU made a long time ago was for athletics. The one to the Big Ten was for two things: 1) $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ (as in the football TV revenue that the Big Ten generates) and 2) academics. At least academics was part of the equation.

The Big Ten is essentially a league of giant state land-grant universities, with whom RU fits in nicely. The Big East had some strong academic schools (like Georgetown), but it is not made up of ajor state universities, like Rutgers.

And since geography no longer matters, here is Rutgers in the Big Ten.

TigerBlog is no way condones gambling in any way on any sporting event and preaches to his children and their friends how gambling can be addictive and life-altering in so many bad ways. Still, he does know what a point spread is, and he's pretty sure that the odds were long against this sentence being true, even thought it is: In its first Big Ten football game against Michigan, Rutgers won but did not cover the spread.

When TigerBlog spoke at NYU last week, he was asked about the Power Five conferences and how there is talk that they will only play games against each other. TB doesn't think this will ever happen, and he's pretty sure it will never happen in any sport other than football, if it ever does in that sport.

Besides, TB said, Princeton teams regularly compete well with Rutgers, with is now a Big Ten team. Princeton beat Rutgers in men's baskeball, men's lacrosse, women's lacrosse, women's tennis and softball and in women's basketball the year before that.

Last night, the Princeton men's soccer team defeated Rutgers 5-2 on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium. The game came three days after Princeton lost a tough 2-1 decision to Dartmouth in overtime in its Ivy opener, and TB can't help but think that the Tigers were happy to get back at it so quickly and had a little anger in their step after Saturday.

The field hockey team lost to Columbia this past weekend, for the first time ever, and then came back and went to overtime with Syracuse two days later.

TigerBlog couldn't help but think back to women's lacrosse season, when the Tigers lost to Brown in their opener - maybe for the first time, TB can't remember - came back in their next game and beat Virginia and then ran the league table, winning the Ivy title and getting to Round 2 of the NCAA tournament.

Will the two losses for men's soccer and field hockey, followed by the strong follow up performances against Rutgers and Syracuse, have the same effect on the men's soccer and field hockey teams?

Well, there's a long way to go for both. The men's soccer team is home Saturday as part of a doubleheader with the women against Brown, with the men and 4 and the women at 7. The field hockey team is home Friday night against Delaware and then a week from tonight against Maryland before taking on Brown next Saturday in its Ivy return.

Of course, the soccer team looked pretty sharp last night. 

RU scored first, early in the game, but Princeton exploded to lead 3-1 at the half and then add two more in the second half. Thomas Sanner had three goals, and Cameron Porter had two goals and an assist.

The last time Princeton reached at least five goals in a game was 2011, in a 7-3 win over Seton Hall. The last time a Princeton player had three goals in a game was 2009, when Antoine Hoppenot did it.

Rutgers is hardly a bad team. The Scarlet Knights have a long established men's soccer tradition, and they won their first Big Ten game earlier this season. They are currently 1-2-1 in their league, which puts them in the thick of the race.

So it was a pretty good night for the Tigers, and a pretty solid win.

Against a team from the Big Ten, no less.

TigerBlog remembers Rutgers when it was in the Eastern 8 - and when Rutgers Stadium didn't have a corporate name (High Point Solutions Stadium) but did have wooden stands.

The eight teams in the Eastern 8 back in the 1970s were Villanova, Duquesne, Penn State, West Virginia, George Washington, Massachusetts, Pittsburgh, and Rutgers. The league eventually grew to become the Atlantic 10.

Of those eight teams, they are now stretched across five leagues. Villanova is in the Big East. Duquesne, GW and UMass are in the A10. Pitt is in the ACC. West Virginia is in the Big 12. Penn State long ago went to the Big Ten.

And now RU is there as well. It's a very nice fit for the school, and its fans - of whom TB knows many - couldn't be more excited.

As for TB, he's happy for them.

And for the fact that in the last week, Rutgers beat Michigan in football, but couldn't beat Princeton in men's soccer.

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