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November 13, 2012With three games left to play this season, Rutgers sits atop the Big East with an undefeated record in conference play and a No.22 national ranking. Nevertheless, oddsmakers have installed the 8-1 Scarlet Knights as 6.5 point underdogs against Cincinnati in a game that will be played Saturday at noon inside Nippert Stadium.
"I guess i kind of understand it. The history is we haven't played well at Cincinnati," said senior defensive tackle Scott Vallone. "I actually remember before the Cincinnati game in 2010 being 13.5 point underdogs. I was like 'really?'"
That night, the Bearcats rolled to a 69-38 win over Rutgers. But this is a different year, a different team.
In spite of that fact and the fact that Rutgers has posted a better record than Cincinnati, Rutgers still seems to be fighting for respect on a national landscape.
"I don't know if people around the country really know who Rutgers is or really take us seriously just because we've had these opportunities in the past and we'd lose a game or whatever," Vallone said. "I think that's what makes it difficult in our quest to really gain that national respect."
The answer to earning that respect is rather simple, according to Vallone.
"All we have to do is keep winning and those things will take care of themselves."
Earlier this season, Rutgers found itself in a similar position on a couple of occasions.
"Everybody expects us to lose or wants us to lose but we're going to be the same Rutgers team that was the underdogs at Arkansas and South Florida," said senior safety Khaseem Greene.
As underdogs, Rutgers emerged victorious in both of those contests.
"I love the underdog role, I love the story behind the underdog," Greene added. "That's me. I wasn't the highest recruited guy and all that stuff, so I love that role."
Fellow linebacker Steve Beauharnais shared a similar sentiment.
"If that's what the experts think, let them think that. No one can hide when it's time to go between the lines," he said.
Rutgers has been successful in all four of its road contests this season, winning by nine points or more at South Florida, Arkansas, Temple and Tulane. Meanwhile, Cincinnati is sitting at a 7-2 mark with losses to Toledo and Louisville.
Rutgers is also ranked in all three Top 25 polls (AP, Coaches, BCS) while Cincinnati is not ranked in one.
"That gives you more of a motive because we are the ones undefeated in Big East play," said senior safety Duron Harmon. "We are the ones that are ranked in the BCS. Anytime that happens, you feel some type of disrespected, but at the end of the day you can't get caught up in that because that's just people talking."
Rutgers will get to do its talking on Saturday and by the time kickoff rolls around, point spreads really won't matter.
"I'm not really worried about that," said sophomore quarterback Gary Nova. "We know what we can do in this locker room and the guys in this program know what we can do. That's all we need to be worried about."
Rutgers will have a few more games after Cincinnati with Pitt and Louisville still on the regular-season slate as well as an impending bowl game.
Regardless of who lines up on the opposite side of the football, this Rutgers team seems confident that the odds will always sway in its favor,.
"I think we're a good matchup for anybody we play against, no matter what conference they are in," said senior defensive end Ka'Lial Glaud. "If they come play us, they are going to remember who we are. You have to strap up to come play against Rutgers football."