Title Trek: Rutgers Knows BCS Stakes

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — With the Big East scheduling the week of Thanksgiving, Rutgers is in the unique position of being able to scoreboard watch the night before its final game of the season. West Virginia and Louisville, which both help Rutgers with losses, play Friday and the Scarlet Knights are well-aware of the different bowl scenarios.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Some Rutgers football players will not watch at all. Others plan to cheer intently for Pittsburgh and South Florida from the team hotel just outside of Hartford, Conn.

Everyone, however knows what is at stake Friday in other Big East games and Saturday at Rentschler Field.

"Obviously we know what we're in for," said junior defensive tackle Scott Vallone. "We know that whatever needs to happen, but none of that matters if we don't win the game on Saturday. We're going to be focused on that. We're going to put our full attention on Connecticut. We know if we look past any team on our schedule, they could have easily beaten us."

The scenario is far from simple, but Rutgers needs help Friday and a victory against Connecticut to head to the BCS.

A Rutgers win against Connecticut guarantees a share of the Big East title, but the BCS berth likely comes down to tie-breakers.

In any head-to-head tie-breaker, Rutgers holds advantages over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and not against West Virginia or Louisville. If it comes to three or more teams tied for first at the end, head-to-head matchups and BCS rankings decide the outcome.

"It's exciting," said sophomore quarterback Chas Dodd. "I think the main thing is we'll use that for motivation, the excitement that this game's going to bring with it. We do [need] to just focus on one game at a time. That's what we're trying to do."

The day after Thanksgiving, West Virginia plays Pittsburgh in the Backyard Brawl and Louisville travels to Tampa, Fla., to play South Florida.

Wins by the Panthers and Bulls can send Rutgers to the BCS with a win the next day.

Louisville does not have any conference games after USF and finishes at 5-2 and tied with Rutgers if they both win. West Virginia plays its final conference game the next week. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati remain in the picture as well, but only if Rutgers loses.

"There are distractions, there's no doubt about it," said head coach Greg Schiano on the mind-boggling scenarios. "When you're in an area that you haven't been very often, you need to make sure that the process is the key. Connecticut, focus on — because you have an opponent that is a good football team who's very well coached, so we need to be totally focused on what we're doing, coaches, players, administrators, trainers, equipment managers. Believe me, the whole organization needs to lock in on what we're doing, and I like the fact that we have kind of this two-day school week."

Some players like junior linebacker Khaseem Greene are simply disinterested in the result with only the Huskies in their minds.

"Whatever happens happens," Greene said. "I know there's a nice little tie-in and some things have to happen. It's not a position that I want to be in. Like I said, we're just focused on UConn and stopping those guys because at the end of the day, if we don't do that, then whatever the scenarios say wouldn't matter."

Greene has no plans to watch either Big East game Friday from the team hotel and will not deviate from his weekly routine.

"I'm not even worried about that," he said. "I'm just getting ready for UConn. ... I try not to watch football in the hotels. ... I just talk to the guys a little bit, have a couple laughs. I try not to get too serious about the game. I listen to music and things like that. ... I really don't care. At the end of the day, it will mean nothing if we lose."

Vallone and many others, however, are ready to watch.

"I'll take a look," Vallone said. "I'll be watching the games just like I do every Friday. But even the Iowa State, Oklahoma State game, I had to turn it off because we had a 12 o'clock kickoff, so I had to get to bed early."

The bottom line — a win against Connecticut means a share of the first Big East Championship for Rutgers and a shot at the BCS. A loss still means an 8-4 season and bowl game after going 4-8 last year and being picked to finish in the Big East cellar.

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