The best team in Rutgers history, having just scored the biggest win in school
annals, this week travels to Cincinnati to face a Bearcats team that is fighting
to become bowl-eligible -- a team that will be playing its fifth opponent this
year that's been ranked No. 11 or higher at the time the teams played.
Rutgers became a member of that elite class by moving from No. 15 to No. 7 (the program's highest ranking ever) with the dramatic win over Louisville in Piscataway -- and also moved all the way up to No. 6 in the latest BCS standings, with a chance, an actual chance, of playing for the national championship.
"Any time you do something for the first time in school history, it is significant," said Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, who was quick to add, "In-season rankings are more for the fans than they are for us. Any time they judge you, it is at the end of the year."
No. 7 Rutgers. It still sounds so weird.
But it's a nice neighborhood for the Knights to be in, indeed.
They're 9-0, 4-0 in the conference. They have turned on the people of the New York/New Jersey area -- not an easy thing to do for a college football team playing in a pro sports location.
The players vow there will be no "trap game" this week after the high of beating Louisville.
"I don't worry about that," defensive tackle Ramel Meekins said. "I don't even know how you can identify this as a trap game. It's a big game. We don't see it as a trap game or a non-trap game. It's a big game because it's the next game on our schedule. That's what it is."
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: With Rutgers down 25-7, the offense took the cue from the defense and turned it on just enough to pull out the win over Louisville. Mike Teel wasn't great, but he was clutch, and he is now 34-1 as a high school and college starter. Running backs Ray Rice and Brian Leonard turned it on when it was needed. West Virginia ran all over Cincinnati last week, so Rutgers will test the run game first this week.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The whole country found out what many knew even before
the Louisville game; this Rutgers defense is fast, it's strong and it's nasty.
Linebacker Devraun Thompson led the way against the Cardinals -- and the Scarlet
Knights came out of the game against one of the best offense in the country
still ranked No. 4 or higher in four national defensive categories -- No. 2
in pass defense.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's no magic secret to this team. We prepare our butts off every week. What we're doing is not special. We're just preparing -- out-preparing ourselves from the week before." -- Rutgers running back Ray Rice on the success of his team.
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Rutgers at Cincinnati, Nov. 18 -- Will there be any letdown for the No. 7 Scarlet Knights (now No. 6 in the BCS standings) in this Saturday night game? The players say no.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Mike Teel -- His numbers weren't great in the 28-25 win
over Louisville, but he took his team down the field for the field goal that
lifted his high school/college record as a starter to 34-1. "There's something
about him," FB Brian Leonard said.
RB Ray Rice -- Like all star players, he rose to the occasion in the fourth quarter, when he ran for 89 of his 131 yards. He scored twice and now needs 20 yards to become the school's all-time leading single-season rusher. Rice was selected to the Big East's weekly honor roll for last week's effort.
LB Devraun Thompson -- He was named Big East defensive player of the week after recording nine tackles, 2.5 for loss and two sacks. He also forced a fumble and picked off a pass in the biggest win in school history.
K Jeremy Ito -- After a penalty gave him another chance, he kicked the game-winner. He also became the school's all-time field goal leader, with 48 -- and was named Big East special teams player of the week.
FB Brian Leonard -- He had a big 26-yard swing pass on the winning drive and now has at least one reception in a Big East-record 43 consecutive games.
WR Kenny Britt -- The freshman caught a 67-yarder from Teel and had two catches for 82 yards in the game.
ROSTER REPORT: CB Derrick Robinson (groin) should be back at full strength this week.
FB Brian Leonard was sick early this week but should be fine.
WR Shawn Tucker, who broke his ankle Sept. 23, could return Saturday night, but next week against Syracuse appears more likely.