- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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More often than not, teams schedule "cupcake" games for Homecoming, hoping to give all the alumni traveling back to campus something to really cheer.
But there is nothing about Kent State that smells like a cupcake.
Rutgers has been forewarned.
It is easy to see the Scarlet Knights face a tricky test Saturday against the Golden Flashes. For one, Kent State is 6-1 and bowl eligible for the first time since 2006. For another, this team comes from the MAC -- a conference that has given the Big East its share of fits this season.
So far, MAC teams have pulled three upsets on the year: Western Michigan and Ball State got things started back in September, winning on the same weekend. The Broncos beat UConn for the second straight season; Ball State pulled out the surprising win over USF. Then last weekend, Toledo upset then-No. 21 Cincinnati, running its record to 5-1 against Top 25 teams at home in the Glass Bowl.
This marks the first time since 2002 the MAC has three wins over Big East competition. But the Big East is not alone here. The MAC also has three wins over Big Ten competition this year (Penn State, Indiana, Iowa), and 14 total nonconference victories, tying the conference mark set in 2008.
Coach Kyle Flood said his players understand the challenge ahead.
"They’re aware of the teams in the MAC conference that have had success against the Big East and other conferences this year, but I don’t think that’s unique this year," Flood said. "That happens every year. You better be ready to compete every week because you’re going to be playing against good players."
There is another challenge Flood has to prepare his team for going into this game. Rutgers steps away from conference play for the next two games. After Kent State, the Scarlet Knights have a bye before playing Army. Rutgers will go nearly a month between Big East games, returning to league play Nov. 17 at Cincinnati.
"We have to rely on our upperclassmen, the maturity of our football team as we’ve done the whole year," Flood said. "They understand because they’ve been through it the only thing we can focus on this week is being 1-0."