Justin K. Aller
After a disappointing, lopsided loss to Pitt last Saturday afternoon, the Scarlet Knights are in complete control of their own destiny this week. That destiny could lead Rutgers straight to the first-ever Big East championship in program history.
Kyle Flood had promised that his team would be focused on Saturday afternoon.
He had said that the No. 25 Rutgers (5-1, 9-2) football team would come out fighting against Pittsburgh last weekend, determined to seal their fortunes and more or less wrap up a Big East Championship before the Scarlet Knights make their move to the Big 10.
Flood said all of that, but saying and doing are two very different things and last Saturday afternoon, the Scarlet Knights didn't do much of anything, falling 27-6 to Pitt.
And now, in their final game of Big East play, Rutgers can make or break their entire season when they face off against No. 23 Louisville (4-2, 9-2) at High point Solutions Stadium on Thursday night.
"We are the only team in the conference that's 5-1 right now and that has earned us a share of the title for the first time in the history of this university," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said. "We're extremely proud of it."
A victory on Thursday evening over the Cardinals would give the Rutgers football team their first-ever Big East championship in the program's entire history.
Possibly more important however, is the automatic BCS bowl bid the Scarlet Knights would receive should they be able to top Louisville after a short week of practices.
"We're focused on winning this game and doing better and bigger things," Flood said. "We're just trying to be 1-0 this week and we know where we have to focus to be able to do that."
A big factor going into Thursday night's game will be the health of sophomore running back Jawan Jamison who was once again limited in Saturday afternoon's loss to Pitt.
Despite posting only nine carries and 14 total yards in the league loss, Jamison still managed to make a little history, becoming just the seventh player in Scarlet Knights' history to break the 1,000-yard mark on the season. He currently sits at 1,004 rushing yards and with his health on the upswing, Jamison is looking to rack up even more.
The Scarlet Knights will plan to once again base their offense on a solid rushing attack, balancing carries between Jamison and fellow sophomore Savon Huggins.
Although Rutgers has faced criticism for playing a far too conservative offense - Gary Nova attempted just 37 passes and threw one interception on Saturday - Flood said he has no plans to expand his attack.
After all, everything they've done so far has given Rutgers at least a partial claim to a Big East championship.
"We need approach this game the exact same way we approached the first 11 games," Flood told The Star Ledger on Monday. "To do anything outside of your personality is very dangerous in a game like this."
The Scarlet Knights take on Louisville for just the twelfth time since 1976 and Rutgers currently leads the series 7-4.
But Thursday's game could be the most important of them all.
A victory puts the Scarlet Knights back on the upswing, re-instilling some confidence in a team that looked like it was floundering the last time they took the football field.
For Rutgers, this is as big as it gets and they've got to be ready for it.