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Rutgers takes Gator Bowl bid left behind by Covid-ravaged Texas A&M

The Scarlet Knights finished near the bottom of the Big Ten but will get to play on New Year's Eve.
Rutgers quarterback Noah Vedral looks to pass in a game against Maryland in Piscataway, N.J., on Nov. 27.Noah K. Murray / AP

Rutgers University, a perennial Big Ten punching bag that just endured its seventh straight losing season, accepted a Gator Bowl bid Thursday, replacing Covid-ravaged Texas A&M.

It previously appeared as though the Scarlet Knights had finished their season with a 5-7 overall mark and a 2-7 Big Ten record, good for next-to-last place in the conference's East Division standings.

But then team got an invitation to the game in Jacksonville, Florida, college football's sixth-oldest bowl, because Texas A&M was forced to bow out Wednesday after injuries and a Covid-19 outbreak took hold of the Aggies’ roster.

Under normal circumstances, only teams with at least six wins are allowed to get bowl invitations. But if a spot is available and a 6-6 team isn’t, bowl organizers are allowed to invite a 5-7 team that is at the top of the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate, or APR, a measure of how well a school pushes student-athletes along toward graduation.

The NCAA didn’t make the APR rankings public to allow schools the option of turning down a bowl bid privately. The Associated Press reported that Rutgers leads the list.

The Scarlet Knights will play No. 20 Wake Forest a week from Friday. The Demon Deacons are 10-3, having won the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division.