The Scarlet Knights have never won their first five games in Big East play. They had the opportunity to do so twice previously in school history, but both times lost to the Cincinnati Bearcats, in Cincinnati.
They’re also just 1-6-1 playing in Cincinnati all-time, with the lone win coming in 1987.
All Rutgers has to do in order to solidify itself in a BCS bowl game is to win its remaining conference games against Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and then Louisville in its regular season finale.
Easier said than done.
This week is the toughest challenge of all for the Scarlet Knights—one that will put Louisville back into the driver's seat for the conference’s title and automatic BCS berth. It’ll also give new life to the Bearcats, who would be guaranteed a share of the championship if they win their remaining games.
History is definitely haunting them, and it will continue to haunt the Scarlet Knights this week.
It isn’t just the history behind the matchup that’s the toughest thing to overcome for Rutgers in this matchup, though. There’s also the sprained ankle of starting running back Jawan Jamison to think about.
Jamison is expected to play, but he will not be 100 percent.
Kyle Flood, Rutgers' head coach, said that as of Thursday, Jamison was at about a “75 percent” chance of playing, according to Tom Luicci of The Star-Ledger. He also said that if the game had been on Thursday, Jamison would not have played.
Cincinnati’s 26th-ranked rush defense allows fewer than 130 yards per game, which will pose a problem for the Scarlet Knights, especially if Jamison is unable to play.
If Jamison misses the game or is slowed by the injury, there will be too much pressure on the shoulders of sophomore quarterback Gary Nova.
Nova has played well this season, but his meltdown against Kent State on Oct. 27 led to the team’s first loss of the season. He threw six interceptions in the 35-23 shocker, practically handing the Golden Flashes the victory.
Senior Bearcats running back George Winn (980 yards and nine touchdowns) leads the Big East in rushing. Winn and Cincinnati’s 16th-ranked rush offense will be the biggest challenge so far for the Scarlet Knights' 17th-ranked rush defense, who have only surrendered five rushing touchdowns this season.
It’s unfortunate for the Scarlet Knights, but history has a tendency of repeating itself.