A BCS bowl berth will be on the line when the Louisville Cardinals travel to New Jersey to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
With Rutgers sitting atop the Big East right now and Louisville just one game behind, this Thursday night showdown will double as a de facto Big East championship game.
The Cardinals, once 9-0, desperately need to get back on track this week. For the better part of the season Louisville appeared to be in control of the conference but now face a must-win situation on the road after losing back-to-back games against Syracuse and Connecticut to bring their record on the season to 9-2.
Rutgers also comes into the game with a 9-2 record after being upset by Pitt last week. The Scarlet Knights have the best record in the conference at 5-1 but will need to rise to the occasion to beat Louisville and claim the conference title.
This should be the game of the year for the Big East conference. Read on for everything you need to know about the matchup and what to expect when these two teams collide.
When: Thursday, Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, NJ
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Radio: Free Football Radio
Spread: Rutgers -3 (via Covers.com)
Considering Rutgers is at home and these two teams have virtually identical résumés, it's no surprise that this line is fairly close.
Rutgers has a highly underrated defense that compares statistically with just about any unit in the country. However, their offense is far from explosive and can be downright bad at times.
Basically, Rutgers is an upgraded version of Connecticut—a team that ranks 120th in scoring but 19th in the country in scoring defense. Louisville lost to the Huskies in triple overtime last week and that should be enough indication to Rutgers the game when picking against the spread.
Over/Under: 43.5 (via Covers.com)
What you think about the over/under in this game says a lot about what you think of the matchup.
If you like Louisville's offensive capabilities then the over is a good bet. Given the Scarlet Knights ability to keep opponents off of the scoreboard this is a fairly low total.
Louisville only scored 10 points in regulation against Connecticut, so it would be an awfully big leap for the offense to put up much more against this Rutgers unit. This one should safely stay under the point total.
Injury Report via USA Today (as of 11/28/2012)
QB Teddy Bridgewater, Wrist, Probable
TE Nate Nord, Undisclosed, Questionable
WR Scott Radcliff, Undisclosed, Questionable
DE B.J. Dubose, Suspension, Questionable
CB Charles Gaines, Undisclosed, Questionable
RB Senorise Perry, Leg, Out for season (11/13)
LB Daniel Brown, Undisclosed, Out (10/12)
WR Michael Harris, Knee, Out for season (8/26)
OL Taj Alexander, Undisclosed, Probable
RB, Jawan Jamison, Ankle, Probable
LB, Khaseem Greene, Head, Probable
QB Gary Nova, Neck, Probable
OL Andre Civil, Ankle, Doubtful
K Kyle Federico, Hip, Doubtful
DL Daryl Stephenson, Foot, Out (10/24)
DL Al Page, Leg, Out for season (10/19)
DL Isaac Holmes, Wrist, Out for season (10/3)
FB Michael Burton, Leg, Out for season (9/25)
This is a game that has direct BCS bowl implications.
In essence, these two teams are playing for the right to play in the Orange bowl. Rutgers and Louisville both dropped out of the Top 25 last week after disappointing losses, but the winner of this game should be right back in the rankings.
With both teams looking like the best team in the Big East at times this season, the two have been on a collision course for quite some time. The high stakes will only make this game even bigger.
Keys for Louisville Victory
The Cardinals are all about quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
The super sophomore has been one of the most improved players in the country this season and has been the efficient leader for Louisville. He only has six interceptions all season and he's thrown one interception in both of the Cardinals losses this season.
The Scarlet Knights defense is stout against the run—they're allowing 3.1 yards per carry and have given up six touchdowns on the ground all season. If the Cardinals want to score, it will need to be with the passing game.
On defense, the Cardinals will need to get after Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova.
Nova has been solid as a sophomore, but he's no Bridgewater. In a loss to Kent State, Nova threw as many interceptions in one game as Bridgewater has all season.
Keys for Rutgers Victory
It is absolutely essential that running back Jawan Jamison get back on track for the Scarlet Knights against Louisville.
Rutger's isn't exactly Oregon on offense. It's clear that the Scarlet Knights rely heavily on a great defense to put the offense in positions to succeed and that has worked out for them to this point.
However, as last week's 27-6 loss to Pitt showed, the defense can't do everything. The Rutgers offense rushed for a measly 50 yards as Jamison struggled with an ankle injury and the Scarlet Knights offensive line failed to open holes for anyone.
On defense, Rutgers needs to continue the high level of play it has shown throughout the season and cause a few turnovers. With the offense struggling field position becomes a vital and turnovers usually serve to flip the field.
If the defense can help the offense with field position the Scarlet Knights will be in a good position to win.
Whoever can dictate the pace of the game will have the advantage in this one.
Louisville will look to play a bit more fast paced and wide open as Bridgewater leads the Cardinals offense through the air. Rutgers will look to grind the ball between the tackles and force Louisville to play at a more deliberate pace.
As long as Rutgers can avoid falling behind early it should be in a good position to win. With both teams in a bit of a slump recently, it's a good bet that that best defense will prevail. That means a Rutgers victory in Piscataway.
Predicted Score: Rutgers 17, Louisville 13