First-year coach Kyle Flood has Rutgers in position for its first Big East championship. Just don't tell him that.
Especially this week, as the 22nd-ranked Scarlet Knights travel to play Saturday against a Cincinnati team still in the hunt for another conference title itself.
Rutgers (8-1, 4-0) is the only remaining unbeaten in league play after Louisville was upset by Syracuse last weekend. Flood's team responded to its first loss of the season -- a 35-23 home defeat to Kent State on Oct. 27 -- with a 28-7 win against Army last Saturday.
That game was tied, 7-7, entering the fourth quarter before Rutgers scored three touchdowns in the final nine minutes, including a late 73-yard fumble return by Duron Harmon.
The Scarlet Knights return to conference action seeking their first 5-0 Big East start since the league began playing football in 1991. If Rutgers wins all three remaining games -- it also plays at Pittsburgh and at home against Louisville to close the regular season -- the team would make its first BCS bowl appearance.
"I don't see it as the driver's seat," said Flood, who served as assistant head coach from 2008-11 before taking over when Greg Schiano left for the NFL.
"I did not know that was the outcome of (Louisville's loss), but I am never surprised in this league by any outcome. Top to bottom it is an extremely competitive league. For us to be thinking about any three games would be a big mistake."
Rutgers was outgained by Army, 337-252, but the Scarlet Knights' run defense held its own, limiting the country's No. 1 rushing attack 84 yards below its season average. The unit ranks among the top 20 nationally and is second in the Big East, allowing 110.0 rushing yards per game, and Army's rushing touchdown in the first quarter was only the fifth allowed all season by Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights -- fifth in the country yielding 13.4 points per game -- will be matched up against the Big East's top rush offense and a new quarterback for Cincinnati.
The Bearcats' 226.8 rushing yards and 34.2 points per game both lead the conference, which they've won at least a share of three of the last four seasons. George Winn, the Big East's leading rusher at 108.9 yards a game, ran for 83 yards and two TDs on 20 carries in their 34-10 win at Temple last Saturday, but senior quarterback Brendon Kay stole the spotlight.
In his first collegiate start, Kay was 13 of 21 for 244 yards and two scores, also running for 71 yards on seven carries. Cincinnati decided to make a change after Munchie Legaux threw six interceptions in the Bearcats' previous three games.
"Brendon Kay came in and did exactly what we wanted him to do and that was manage the football game," coach Butch Jones said. "I thought his decision-making was very good."
Cincinnati (7-2, 3-1) can capture at least a share of the Big East title by winning its final three games, and it would be assured of a BCS berth if it does that and Louisville loses once more.
"Everyone wants a crown ... but every game counts and that's why you just come to work every day," Jones said.
Rutgers is the conference's only team undefeated on the road at 4-0, though the Scarlet Knights are 1-6-1 all-time at Cincinnati. The lone victory came in 1987.
The all-time series is tied, 8-8-1, with the Bearcats winning five straight before a 20-3 road loss last November. Rutgers running back Jawan Jamison ran for 200 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries in the victory.
Jamison threw a touchdown pass and rushed for 90 yards against Army. He's second in the Big East to Winn with 105.9 yards per game on the ground.
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The Scarlet Knights hope to move to 5-0 in the Big East for the first time in school history. But they face a huge challenge from Cincinnati, a team with only one league loss and very much in the thick of the conference race. Rutgers is 1-6-1 all-time at Cincinnati, with the lone win coming in 1987. Rutgers has started 4-0 twice in Big East history (2006, 2012). Both times, Rutgers faced Cincinnati in the fifth Big East game. In 2006, Rutgers lost 30-11 -- its first defeat of the season.