By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – Sitting atop the Big East standings as the lone undefeated team, No. 22 Rutgers has a luxury that no other team in the conference has. They control their own destiny.
So as they pursue the first Big East Championship in school history, their own fate is in their hands.
“You can’t ask for anything more,” quarterback Gary Nova said. “You work so hard in the offseason just for this moment to control your own destiny so you can’t ask for anything more.”
And the way the schedule sets up, two of their final three opponents are the two other teams that are still in contention for the conference crown. As Rutgers begins the toughest part of their schedule, they travel out to Cincinnati (7-2, 3-1 Big East) and close the season out at home against No. 19 Louisville (9-1, 4-1 Big East).
Both games will have colossal impacts on the conference title race. However, as the only undefeated team in conference, Rutgers has the inside track.
“That’s the place you want to be,” defensive tackle Scott Vallone said. “Undefeated in the conference at this point and playing another team that’s in contention. If they beat us they’re one up in the category, so we just got to be prepared to go.”
And they should be. Rutgers knows how quickly the opportunity can slip away. They can just look back to the end of last season, where a loss at UConn cost them a share of the Big East Championship.
And so, they’ll take the same approach they take for every game, every year. Go 1-0 this week in their one game season, all the while knowing that if they do that three times, they’ll achieve their ultimate goal.
“We got our eyes focused on the big prize – the Big East Championship,” safety Duron Harmon said. “And the only way that we can get to that is to be focused on Cincinnati right now.”
And because of that mentality of the collection of one game seasons, it helps alleviate the added weight of winning that elusive Big East title.
“When you’re mindset is every game is 1-0 and everything’s at stake every single game you play in the season, so right now I don’t feel any added pressure or anything,” defensive end Ka’Lial Glaud said. “I just feel like we’re going out there and playing football like we have every single year.”
So while the players are well aware of the situation that they’re in and the luxury of it, they know that the approach has to be the same that it’s always been.
“It’s a better position than other people are in, but the way this league works you always have to control your fate in a sense and we go in each week trying to be 1-0 so I’m going to tell you the same thing,” cornerback Logan Ryan said. “We’re trying to be 1-0.”