When: Thursday at 7:30
Where: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium
Series: Rutgers leads 7-5; Louisville has won 3 straight
About each team
The Cardinals (5-0) won their fifth straight and notched their first conference win against Temple last Saturday. Teddy Bridgewater threw for 341 yards and two touchdowns in the 30-7 victory. Dominique Brown, Eli Rogers, and Gerald Christian all saw the endzone. The Cardinals will attempt to remain undefeated in conference play when they face Rutgers on Thursday night.
In their last outing, Rutgers (4-1) posted a 55-52 triple overtime win at SMU. The Scarlet Knights only loss came in their season-opener at the hands of Fresno State in overtime, when they opted to go for the two-point conversion, which proved unsuccessful and Rutgers fell 52-51. Rutgers comes into this contest averaging 40 points per game which ranks 22nd nationally. They average a total of 422.8 yards per game, with 243 of that coming through the air and 179 coming on the ground.
University of Louisville Head Coach Charlie Strong now has an overall record of 30-14. His club has continued to dominate opponents this season and he hopes that they continue this same trend tonight.
Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood is trying to fill some pretty big shoes as he takes the place of now Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano. Last season he won Big East coach of the year, an honor that he shared with University of Louisville Head Coach Charlie Strong. He led the school to its first Big East championship in 2012, and his nine regular season victories were the most by a first year head coach in school history. Eight of Rutgers players also garnered All- Big East honors. In 16 of his 17 seasons as an assistant his teams finished with a winning record, including a National Championship at Delaware.
Inside the Numbers
1976 - The year the series began. Rutgers won the first four meetings, but Louisville has stormed back to win five of the past 7, including three straight.
6.8 - The average number of points per game that the U of L defense has given up per game this season, which ranks tops in the country.
16 - Louisville's defense national rank for total sacks. They are lead by junior defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin with 5.5.
2006 - The last time the Cardinals played a Thursday night game. The Cardinals were ranked fifth in the country and they outlasted third ranked West Virginia 44-34.
514 – The total number of yards the Cardinals are averaging on offense.
1 – The number of interceptions that junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has thrown this season. To go along with 16 touchdown passes, this tops some of the other nations top quarterbacks, including: Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel (4), Georgia's Aaron Murray (3), UCLA's Brett Hundley (3), and Fresno State's Derek Carr (3).
3 – Rutgers run defense national rank. The Scarlet Knights give up an average of just 70 yards per game on the ground.
263 – The number of yards Teddy Bridgewater threw in last year's contest with a high ankle sprain as he lead his team to a 20-17 come-from-behind victory. The win secured the program's second trip to a BCS Bowl.
What to Watch For
Rutgers is expected to give Louisville it's toughest test of the season. The Cardinals have entered each game this season as a heavy favorite and that trend continues, as the Cardinals are a 19 point favorite against the visiting Scarlet Knights. Given the attention and the ESPN nationally televised stage, the Cardinals should come out focused and ready to play.
One thing to watch for is how the Louisville defense will perform against the Rutgers offense, which has scored 50 points twice this season. Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova became the fifth quarterback In school history to pass for over 500 yards in the victory over Arkansas. Rutgers has a standout at tight end in sophomore Tyler Kroft, who recorded six catches for 133 yards and a touchdown to help the Scarlet Knights defeat Arkansas. That performance earned him the John Mackey weekly award.
Cardinals star receiver DeVante Parker will be a game-time decision; even though he tweeted out that he was ready for action. Parker leads Louisville in receptions with 21 and 375 receiving yards to go along with 6 touchdowns. If Parker is a no go, it will be interesting to see whether or not highly touted freshman James Quick will get the call as he has seen limited action all season. Michealee Harris looks to continue to make his presence since returning to the lineup.
Keys to the game
The University of Louisville defense is giving up just an average of 6.8 points per game this season which leads the country. It will be interesting to see whether or not the Cardinals can stop the Rutgers high octane offense which comes into the game average 40 points per contest. The Cardinals have just been flat out superior this season and will need to continue their impressive play against Rutgers.
Rutgers has the nation's third best rushing defense coming into the game, allowing an average of only 70 yards per game. With the three headed monster that the Cardinals have in Senorise Perry, Dominique Brown, and Michael Dyer, it will be interesting to see who wins that battle. If the Cardinals can win the battle in the trenches, establish an effective running game and are able to control the clock, they should have no problem capturing their sixth victory of the season. U of L racked up 184 total yards on the ground against Temple, and they will be looking for that same type of success tonight against Temple.
The one weakness that stands out when scouting Rutgers is their pass defense that ranks 116th in the country. It is one that Teddy Bridgewater and company look to take full advantage of. The Cardinals average 333 yards per game through the air and if Rutgers are unable to slow the U of L passing attack, they could match or even surpass that season average tonight.
When Charlie Strong was asked about Rutgers earlier this week, he had nothing but praise and respect for the conference rival.
"You just look at them offensively, they give you great balance with the run and the pass," Strong said. "They give you so much play-action, and that's how they slow down the rush, because they don't let you just tee off and just go sack the quarterback. It's a veteran group and they do a great job with protecting Nova, and Nova is getting rid of the ball, so he's not taking sacks."
Jody Demling: Louisville's offense clicks for four quarters. Cardinals remain undefeated with a 45-17 victory.
Michael McCammon: A balanced attack keeps the Scarlet Knights defense on their heels and the Cardinals defense creates a few turnovers. Louisville remains on track for the BCS. Louisville becomes bowl eligible with a 34-20 victory.
Ryan Marchand: The Cardinals are able to run the ball, and control the clock, and they prove why they are one of the best teams in the country on one of the biggest stages. Cards win 35-14.