Rutgers: Never Tell Me the Odds

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers is a national underdog this week when it travels to Ohio State out of a bye week. The Scarlet Knights proved many wrong in their eyes with a 5-1 start in the Big Ten, but the Buckeyes represent a new level of challenge -- averaging 56 points per game since their loss to Virginia Tech.

Rutgers is a 19.5-point underdog in Las Vegas this week, and the majority of the college football community sees Ohio State completing Homecoming with a victory over the Scarlet Knights.

But for the men in the Rutgers locker room, it doesn’t matter what you think.

“I don’t think you can look at it like too big of a game,” said junior team captain Darius Hamilton. “I don’t think you can afford to look down the line and things like that. We’re underdogs, and the best part about where we’re living today is that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. We get another opportunity to go out and prove them wrong.”

The Scarlet Knights (5-1, 1-1) have been the underdog in four of their six games to start the year and only Penn State has a victory. Navy and Washington State were both touchdown favorites against Rutgers.

Ohio State, however, puts Rutgers at a different level of underdog. The Scarlet Knights say they are not intimidated.

“To win a game in the Horseshow in front of 100,000, that would be amazing,” said quarterback and team captain Gary Nova. “… It’s a huge opportunity. This is what you want to play football for – games like this, your back against the wall, people don’t really believe in you. We just have to go out there and bond together with our brothers and have fun.”

Rutgers won in front of 72,000 at Arkansas in 2012, but has not played in front of a triple-digit crowd since Tennessee in 2002 in Greg Schiano’s third season.

Nova shined in 2012 under tough road conditions, and did the same this year at Washington State. He said he feels ready for the next step in Ohio State.

“It’s my job,” Nova said. “Everybody will be looking at me to see how I react. I’ll be calm out there. I’ve played a lot of football. One-hundred thousand, I’m sure it will be crazy. I’m sure it will be loud, but I just want to win.”

Fullback Michael Burton never envisioned an chance like he has Saturday in starting against Ohio State in one of the nation’s most famous sporting venues.

The fifth-year senior captain does not plan on looking ahead, but appreciates what it means for Rutgers to play a 3:30 p.m. game on ABC against the Buckeyes.

“I’m definitely blessed with the opportunity to have this,” he said. “It’s exciting to be able to go out there and play in front of a hostile environment. I’m very excited to be a part of it because it’s a great opportunity to showcase Rutgers. When kickoff happens, [the odds] are a non-factor. It’s all about staying focused. We’re going to have great preparation in practice. We’re going to be ready.”

An upset for Rutgers means bowl eligibility for the third straight year under coach Kyle Flood’s leadership. A loss likely drops Rutgers out of the race for a berth in the Big Ten championship game.

“We’re in the business of winning championships here, and this is just another stop along the way,” Burton said. “It just happens to be Ohio State this week, and we’re ready to go out there and perform.”

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