Big East title, BCS bid on the line for Cards

The University of Louisville is headed to the ACC in 2014. But forget the future for a while and let's talk about tonight when the Cardinals' football team has a chance to win a Big East Conference title. The Cardinals will play at Rutgers for the league title and a berth in a Bowl Championship Series game.

Back in August at the Big East Conference football media days in Newport, R.I., the overwhelming sentiment was this season's league crown wouldn't be decided until the last weekend of the season when Louisville faced Rutgers.

And here we are.

It's the final game of the season for both Louisville and Rutgers and the league title and BCS bowl bid are on the line tonight in New Jersey. The game will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN and is for all the marbles.

"The road ends at Rutgers," U of L wide receiver Eli Rogers said.

Rutgers is 9-2 and 5-1 in the league, while U of L is 9-2 and 4-2 in conference play after back-to-back losses to Syracuse and Connecticut.

"We have a large task ahead of us," U of L coach Charlie Strong said. "After dropping the last two games, we have to regain our focus and regain our confidence. The thing we have to realize is we've won nine games and dropped the last two, but this team is still a really good football team. Now, we have to go on the road.

"We have to go on the road to win a championship. What's at stake for us and what we really have to understand is we have a chance to win a conference championship. We have a chance to go play in a BCS bowl game. We also have a chance for a 10-win season."

Strong reminded his team this week that the two losses don't matter and also that his team would be in the same situation had it won both games.

" It's disappointing but coach is right, regardless the road was still going to go through Rutgers," senior center Mario Benavides said. "We are fortunate enough to be in this position. It feels like it's kind of meant to be for us, so now we just have to go to take care of business."

Some of the luster of the game is gone after the two U of L losses and also a Rutgers team that was whipped last week at Pittsburgh.

But it's still for a league title.

"I don't concern myself with the luster of the game," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said on a conference call this week. "When you get to the end of the season and you have two teams that are playing each other and the winner of the game has an opportunity to go to a BCS game, what you have is the closest thing to a conference championship game you can have. I can't speak to any outside perception, but on our campus they're excited about the game."

U of L does have to regroup and without a healthy Teddy Bridgewater, who broke his wrist and sprained his ankle last week against UConn. Strong said Bridgewater would play but also noted backup (Will) "Stein will be ready."

"The backup quarterback is the most important position on the team," Stein said. "I am ready to get out there and lead the team if I am needed.

"There's a big sense of urgency this week for us. If we get the win, these last two losses won't mean a thing because we'll still be Big East champions and go to a BCS bowl. We're ready to go as a team."


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