Three games. Three Big East opponents. One championship on the line. It's go-time for the Scarlet Knights.
They're coming around the home stretch now.
No. 22 Rutgers football has just three games left on their schedule - all of them against Big East opponents - and every single one could make or break their 2012 season. It all starts this Saturday afternoon though as they face off against Cincinnati on the road, fresh off a dominant 28-7 victory over Army.
With their sights set on a Big East championship, all the clearer after Louisville's loss to Syracuse last Saturday, the Scarlet Knights (4-0, 8-1) know that this weekend's matchup against the Bearcats (3-1, 7-2) is enormous; in every definition of the word. Rutgers currently sits alone atop the Big East standings and this week's matchup could push them even farther over the top.
"This is a great challenge for our program and something we're really excited about," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said in his weekly press conference on Monday. "These are the games that I think are really enjoyable not just for the fans and the fan bases, but for the programs and the players as well."
The Scarlet Knights got exactly what they needed in last Saturday's dominant victory over non-conference opponent Army, bouncing back to their winning ways after a surprising loss to Kent State and a bye week off the gridiron.
After throwing six interceptions in the Kent State game, the one turnover by Gary Nova seemed almost close to perfection. Nova finished the matchup 14-of-17 for 123 yards and one touchdown; a 31 yard pass to Brandon Coleman.
After Jawan Jamison and Andrew Civil both sustained injuries in last week's victory, Nova may have to step up even more if the two are unable to go on Saturday afternoon.
Flood said that the two "are probably 50-50 for the game."
"Until I see them do something on the field, I don't know that I can say it's any better than 50-50 that either guy plays," he added.
Jamison's potential absence from Saturday's game could have a major impact on what the Scarlet Knights are able to do on offense.
Rutgers' top rusher currently ranks 24th nationally and second in the Big East with, on average, 105.9 yards per game. The sophomore is currently averaging just over four yards a carry with 953 rushing yards to his name and with three games possibly left for Jamison, he could very well become third RU player since 1976 to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
Saturday's matchup marks the seventeenth time these two conference foes have faced off, with the series currently standing at 8-8-1. More important than any of that, though, Saturday's potential victory would push the Scarlet Knights to 5-0 in the Big East for the first time in school history.
"I think when you are playing an opponent like we are this week, and again, I'll say it one more time: A team that has been able to call themselves the Big East champions three of the last four years. They have your attention right away," Flood said.
"There is nothing else on our mind this week other than trying to be 1-0 this week and executing our game plan against whatever game plan they show up with."