But the game will be secondary to the major storyline – the presumption that Friday's game will be Steve Kragthorpe's last at UofL.
The embattled coach is 15-20 in three seasons at UofL and has won just 5 of 20 Big East games. This season, Louisville is 1-5 in the league, the lone win an ugly one-point decision over perennial loser Syracuse.
"If I could use one word it would be frustrated because we've been so close in so many games, where we couldn't get over the hump," Kragthorpe said. "It started with UK. I think had we won that game it would have jump started us. Utah was a close one I felt we could have won that game. UConn we moved the ball up and down the field but had some turnovers that cost us. We're in it at West Virginia and South Florida."
Only two of Louisville's seven losses this season have been by 10 or fewer points – a 31-27 setback at Kentucky and a 17-9 decision at West Virginia. The Cardinals dropped Big East games to Pittsburgh by 25; Cincinnati by 31; UConn by 13; and South Florida by 12.
Kragthorpe said this week that he hopes to return for a fourth season at UofL. He said he hasn't spoken with athletic director Tom Jurich about his future but expects to shortly after the season finale.
"I think we're really getting some young guys to come on – guys like Josh Chichester," Kragthorpe said. "Guys like Darius (Ashley) and Shenard Holton on defense and special teams. We've got some really good young football players. We've got some good players redshirting – guys like Damian Copeland, who's going to be a great wide receiver, Jeremy Wright, who's going to be a great running back, Kamran Joyer, who's going to be a phenomenal offensive lineman, a Sunday-type player."
But while there are some talented young players in the program, Kragthorpe's team will miss out on the post-season for a third straight season. That's not a good sign in an age when 68 out of 120 Division 1 teams go bowling each year. Prior to Kragthorpe's arrival, Louisville played in nine straight bowl games.
"I think we've made a lot of progress but not in the win-loss column," Kragthorpe said. "We haven't won enough football games and I'm frustrated. I'm disappointed for our team, our fans and everybody involved that loves Louisville football."
The Cardinals will kick-off the season-finale at 11 a.m. Louisville will be playing to send their seniors out with a win. Rutgers for bowl position. The Cardinals lost 34-22 last week at USF; Rutgers, 7-3, suffered a surprising 31-13 defeat against Syracuse – a contest in which Rutgers allowed nine sacks.
"Rutgers didn't play very well at Syracuse and (Tom) Savage got pressured a little bit," Kragthorpe said.
In two prior meetings, Kragthorpe is 1-1 against the Scarlet Knights. Two years ago, the Cardinals overcame a 17-point deficit to win 41-38. Last season, Rutgers sent Louisville into the off-season with a 63-14 whipping on national television. This season, the Scarlet Knights lead the Big East in turnover margin.
"They're very aggressive, multiple blitzes and try to confuse in your pass protection and your run game," Kragthorpe said. "Rutgers is also very good at blocking punts. They've blocked five this year."
Louisville will say fare-well to 21 seniors with a pre-game ceremony starting twenty minutes before kick-off.
"We've got a great group of senior players," Kragthorpe said. "Hopefully we'll get a great crowd and send those guys out in a positive fashion. They've meant a lot to this program and me."
Date November 27, 2009
Kickoff 11:00 a.m.
Radio 84-WHAS AM
Series Rutgers leads 6-2