The No. 8-ranked University of Louisville football team will get their first big test of the season on Thursday, when they play host to Rutgers (4-1).
The Cardinals will square off with the Scarlet Knights not only in front of a sold out Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, but with a national viewing audience tuned-in to the ESPN-broadcasted game.
The Rutgers offense will pose the season's first serious threat to the Louisville defense, a unit that has been dominant through its first five games. The Cardinal defense ranks first in the nation in points against (6.8), and within the top five in total defense, rush defense and passing yards allowed.
But the defense knows what awaits them on Thursday night, and the unit's players and coaches aren't taking the task lightly.
"We know that (Rutgers) is going to be a real offense," senior linebacker Preston Brown said. "We're not playing the (teams) we've played the last couple of weeks."
"We know we've got a great team coming here- big offensive line, big receivers, big running backs and a big-time quarterback. We've got to be mentally focused and prepared so we can go out there and play the best football we've played."
The Rutgers offense has been explosive this season, averaging 40 points a game, while rushing for nearly 180 yards and passing for 243 yards each outing. The Scarlet Knights also found a new weapon last week in freshman running back Justin Goodwin, who ran for 149 yards and two scores in Saturday's overtime win against SMU.
While Louisville defensive coordinator Vance Bedford admits that preparing for Rutgers' plethora of playmakers is enough to cause a coach many "sleepless nights," his concerns extend beyond the skill positions.
"When you look at (Rutgers') offensive line and they walk out there, I wish they were in the Big Ten right now so we didn't have to play them," Bedford said half-jokingly. "Just our luck they're still here."
"They're big, they're physical, they'll knock you off the ball," Bedford added. "That's a physical football team."
As if the game needed any added dimensions, revenge could also be on Rutgers' mind come Thursday night. Wins over the Scarlet Knights in recent years have propelled the Cardinals into several bowl games- most notably last season's Allstate Sugar Bowl.
"I feel (the Rutgers game) has (become) a rivalry," Preston Brown said. "Even over the past few years we've had some close games with them."
"I know they don't like us, so it should be exciting to get back out there and go play those guys."
Even though they'll be facing an explosive offense with a mind set on vengeance, the Cardinals look forward to proving their worth against a quality opponent.
"Big-time players show up in big-time games," Brown said.
"It should be exciting to get out there and show the world what we can do against a big-time opponent."