Rutgers enters Saturday's contest at Cincinnati (7:30 p.m., Nippert Stadium) needing a win to restore bowl hopes, and extend its bowl streak to six straight seasons.
Five years ago Rutgers entered a late-season game against Cincinnati with bowl hopes, needing to defeat the Bearcats to secure the program's first bowl bid in 28 years. The Scarlet Knights won that game 44-9 and went to the Insight Bowl.
The pressure this week for the Scarlet Knights (4-5, 1-3 Big East) to end a three-game losing streak and push closer to bowl eligibility.
"I think mentally, we're in the right mind for being 4-5, but we're not getting caught up in (the bowl talk)," Rutgers red-shirt sophomore free safety Khaseem Greene said. "We're still grinding, we're still working hard. I think for the most part we have a great mentality for us being 4-5 and everyone talking about a bowl, and the crazy things that get thrown out there at this time of the season.
"I think we're level-headed and ready to get back to work."
What used to be an offseason of wondering if this would be the year Rutgers made a bowl has transformed into an annual rite. The Insight Bowl loss to Arizona State was followed by wins in the Texas, International, Papajohns.com and St. Petersburg bowls.
With Rutgers needing to win two of its last three games to be eligible, and needing to win all three to guarantee a bowl bid, it puts the pressure on to perform well against the Bearcats, who have won the last four in the series.
"It's very hard as far as the players trying to focus on this game, but you can't go too far ahead thinking about the next game," Rutgers junior cornerback David Rowe said. "If you handle each game as an individual season, it will take care of itself."
Certainly, Rutgers will have to defeat recent history to get to a bowl, and it begins with the Bearcats, who won the last four meetings, including last season's 47-15 trouncing in the season opener.
"I almost forgot (about the game), but it's deep down in me," Rowe said. "When you get beat like that, you try to forget it, but I definitely didn't forget what they did."
Entering the season only four schools were on four-game bowl winning streaks, and the players are looking to extend the streak. But they also know in order to push the streak to five, they have to get to one.
"It's great to have it," Greene said. "Not a lot of teams in the country have four straight bowl wins, so you think about it, but not really a lot."