Looking Ahead ...

With the 2009 football schedule's completion and a month to take it in, here is a list of the top five games to look forward to for the Rutgers faithful based on program history and what's in store for the Big East this season.

5.) Sept. 26, at Maryland — Early ACC opponents have dictated the path of the Scarlet Knights' respective seasons and this year will be no different. It began in 2006 when a 21-16 season opening win over UNC propelled Rutgers to nine straight wins to open the year including that magical night against Louisville.

The last two seasons however, have begun with early losses to Maryland and North Carolina that led to respective 3-2 and 1-5 starts for the Knights. Rutgers rebounded during both campaigns to notch Bowl Game victories, but the national presence they enjoyed in '06 eluded them.

Rutgers will bring a 3-6 career record against Maryland to College Park in their first road test of the year after three home games to open the season.

4.) Nov. 12, South Florida — The last time USF travelled to the Banks for a Thursday night game, it ended with another Pandemonium in Piscataway moment as RU felled the No. 2 team in the country behind Ray Rice and Mike Teel.

Although neither team is likely to be in the top five this year, the bad blood between the two programs after three consecutive big wins for RU combined with the way the Knights' defense has controlled USF star quarterback Matt Grothe in his career will make for yet another electrifying night at Rutgers Stadium.

3.) Nov. 21, at Syracuse — The chance for a free, full contact shot at former Duke point guard Greg Paulus is something that any football fan would pay to see. So when you add in the kind of hits that Joe Lefeged has lain on Syracuse quarterbacks the last two seasons, Paulus might regret coming to play for the Orange.

The bone-crushing sack on Andrew Robinson by Lefeged his freshman year served as his "welcome to Rutgers moment" where fans began to take notice of the Germantown, Md. native. The next year, Lefeged helped lead the defense in a brutal assault of Orange quarterback Cam Dantley that ended with a 3-for-12 day, an injury and a 35-17 win for the Scarlet Knights.

Paulus does not have to sit out a year before playing at the Carrier Dome because NCAA transfer regulations do not include a change in sport (though he still needs to apply for and be granted a waiver), but Lefeged and the rest of the Knights will certainly lick their chops for a chance to light up the former Blue Devil.

2.) Dec. 11, West Virginia — Yet again, this might be the Scarlet Knights' year. Rutgers has won just four of 36 career games against the Mountaineers, but WVU has slipped since losing Rich Rodriguez bailed on Morgantown for Michigan and Rutgers has done nothing but improve.

The Knights gave WVU a run for its money in '06 and '08 in Morgantown, but were blown out in their black uniforms against West Virginia last time they came to Rutgers Stadium.

This year, in the final game of the year with bowl implications and possibly a Big East Championship on the line, Rutgers has a great shot for revenge against a Pat White and Steve Slaton-less WVU crew.

1.) Sept. 7, Cincinnati — Rutgers has lost tough games to the Bearcats in each of the last three years. The Bearcats have been a definite thorn in RU's rejuvenation, ending RU's nine-game winning streak in ‘06, handing the team a second straight loss in '07 that would push RU out of the national rankings, and defeating the Knights in '08, consequently keeping them from a Big East Title. But after losing the entire starting defense, this might be the Scarlet Knights' year to return the favor.

Add in the fact that it will be the first game in the renovated Rutgers Stadium and the debut of Mike Teel's successor and this may be the most anticipated season opener in Piscataway history.

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