While Schiano's decision to stay with the Scarlet Knights may have kept the Cardinals' Hoke in the running, both coaches should be on the sidelines on Jan. 5 for the International Bowl in Toronto.
Schiano, who turned down a potential $2 million contract from Miami last year, balked at the opportunity to replace Lloyd Carr as the next coach at Michigan. A native of New Jersey in his seventh season at Rutgers (7-5), Schiano is committed to continuing the turnaround of what had been one of the worst programs in major college football.
He has led the Scarlet Knights to three consecutive bowl appearances after they reached only one in 135 seasons.
"I was contacted... about the Michigan coaching vacancy, but I have decided to remove my name from consideration," Schiano said in a statement. "I look forward to our third straight bowl game and to bringing a national championship to Rutgers and the state of New Jersey. I will have no further comment."
Hoke, an assistant under Carr from 1995-2001, has the Cardinals (7-5) in a bowl game for the first time since they lost the 1996 Las Vegas Bowl to Nevada. He discussed the Wolverines' coaching situation with Michigan athletic director Bill Martin.
"I did have a conversation with Bill a couple of weeks ago of substance about interest on both ends of it, but that's as far as it's gone," Hoke told The Ann Arbor News.
The teams hope those distractions are behind them as they meet for the first time since a 31-all tie on Sept. 9, 1989.
Much has changed since that meeting, particularly for Rutgers and Schiano has received most of the credit. The school that claims to be the birthplace of college football has gone from being one of the country's worst programs to a team that has frequented the Top 25, including flirting with a possible berth in the BCS title game last season.
The impressive turnaround, which includes the team's first postseason victory in a 37-10 win over Kansas State in the 2006 Texas Bowl, also has Rutgers looking to make $120 million in improvements to its stadium.
"He came to this place to make it special, to win championships, to be a big-time football program," Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel said of Schiano. "We're going in the direction."
The Knights began the season at No. 16 and climbed as high as 10th after a 3-0 start and a 59-0 rout of Norfolk State of the Football Championship Subdivision. They followed that with back-to-back home losses to Maryland and Cincinnati, but re-appeared in the poll at No. 25 after handing South Florida its first loss of the season on Oct. 18.
Offensively, Rutgers is led by running back Ray Rice, one of seven Knights on the All-Big East team and the only unanimous selection of the group.
The junior, a finalist for the Doak Walker award, became the first Rutgers player to rush for three 1,000-yard seasons in a row and score 20 touchdowns in consecutive years. He has run for 1,732 yards and 20 TDs this season, and even got involved in the passing game with career highs of 23 receptions, 224 yards and a score. He totaled 12 catches for 95 yards in his previous two seasons.
Rice is looking to eclipse his career-high of 1,794 rushing yards from last season when he faces a Ball State run defense that allows 197.0 yards per game, ranking 10th in the Mid-American Conference and among the worst in the country.
The Cardinals have been better against the pass, leading the MAC with 18 interceptions and giving up 221.8 yards per game. Junior cornerback B.J. Hill, a converted running back, has a team-high five picks.
The 5-foot-7 Hill will likely get matched up against one of Rutgers' tall receivers - Kenny Britt (6-foot-4) or Tiquan Underwood (6-foot-2).
Britt is Rutgers' leader with 1,107 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on 56 catches. The sophomore closed the regular season with a career-high 12 catches for 173 yards and two TDs in a 41-38 loss at Louisville on Nov. 29.
Underwood had a breakout season with a team-high 62 receptions for 1,028 yards and six scores after totaling 27 catches for 337 yards and four TDs in his previous two years.
Those receivers helped Teel finish the regular season with 2,844 yards passing, 17 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He was sacked only six times.
Ball State, which is 0-4-1 all-time in bowls, is led by signal-caller Nate Davis. The sophomore leads the MAC with 3,376 passing yards and a school-record 27 touchdown passes, while only throwing six interceptions. His outstanding season helped the Cardinals average 31.6 points.
His top option is junior wide receiver Dante Love, the conference leader with 1,229 receiving yards as well as nine touchdowns on 87 catches. Love, named to the All-MAC first team, had a strong finish to the regular season with 28 catches for 440 yards and two TDs in the final three games. He's also a threat on special teams, averaging 23.7 yards on 41 kick returns with a 100-yard touchdown in a 58-38 loss to Central Michigan on Oct. 6.
This is the second International Bowl after Cincinnati won the inaugural one 27-24 over Western Michigan last season.
by: Staff Writers - Email Us
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