Game Preview: Rutgers at Louisville

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The game marked on every Rutgers fan calendar has arrived and the Scarlet Knights come to Papa John's Stadium as major underdogs to No. 8 Louisville and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. ScarletReport.com is on scene and brings you a deeper look at the action and chances of coach Kyle Flood to lead Rutgers to an upset.

Rutgers (4-1, 1-0) at Louisville (5-0, 1-0)


Time:7:31 p.m., Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, Ky.
TV/Radio: ESPN, 710-WOR, 1450-AM, 97.5 FM
Series: Rutgers leads 7-5
Last meeting: Nov. 29, 2012, Louisville won 20-17
Coaches: Rutgers – Kyle Flood (2nd season, 13-5); Louisville – Charlie Strong (4th season 30-14)

Storyline Central

  • Teddy Ballgame -- Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate and the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft in the eyes of Rutgers coach Kyle Flood. All roads to the BCS go through Louisville and Bridgewater, who already has 1,562 passing yards 16 touchdowns in his first five games. Bridgewater is 2-0 against Rutgers, including his gutty performance last year that turned the Cardinals into Sugar Bowl winners.

  • The Big Game -- Circled on every Rutgers calendar since the release of the 2013 schedule, the Scarlet Knights and Cardinals had some of the best games in the end of the Big East era and should be the game of the year in the AAC. Rutgers has had higher stakes against Louisville, but has not been a 16-point underdog since the turn of the program. Tonight's ESPN clash also marks the end of what has been the most marketable conference rivalry in the last decade.

  • True freshman spotlight -- For the Scarlet Knights, two New Jersey true freshmen have major roles against Louisville. True freshmen bring high risks and high rewards and that will be the case for two key names tonight for the Scarlet Knights. Running back Justin Goodwin logged 222 total yards and three touchdowns in his breakout game against SMU just five days ago. Goodwin displayed burst, vision and elusiveness but struggled in his reads and in pass protection to the point where quarterback Gary Nova took some big hits. Defensively, cornerback Nadir Barnwell is steadily improving as a tackler but has coverage lapses in multiple games. Fresno State and SMU both targeted Barnwell for big plays and the Piscataway product faces his toughest athletic matchups against the Louisville receivers.

Matchup to Watch
Rutgers left tackle Keith Lumpkin against Louisville defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin

Mauldin already has 5.5 sacks to his name through five games and is the spear-head of a defense that is best in the country in points allowed. Louisville ranks first nationally in scoring defense and has yet to give up more than one touchdown in a game. Lumpkin is a first-year starter that struggled against SMU's speed on defensive line. The speed only gets higher against Louisville and Lumpkin has his biggest test yet in terms of protecting his quarterback's blindside.

Scarlet Knights Win If…
Nova matches Bridgewater The Rutgers defense is going to give up a lot of points because that happens with everyone when playing Louisville. Improvements need to be made since the SMU game, but the Scarlet Knights are not going to shut down Bridgewater unless something crazy happens. If Rutgers wants to take down the No. 8 team in the country, Nova needs to match Bridgewater shot-for-shot like he did against other elite quarterbacks like Tyler Wilson, Derek Carr and Garrett Gilbert. Rutgers needs big plays on offense early and an ability to maintain drives and limit time of position for the Cardinals.

QB Gary Nova
Cardinals Win If …
Bridgewater beats secondary -- The Rutgers defensive secondary goes into tonight's game extremely vulnerable following the struggles five days prior against SMU. An unhealthy Bridgewater picked apart a much more experienced Rutgers defense last year, and it will take perfect execution and some creative play calls from Rutgers defensive coordinator Dave Cohen to hold him at bay.





KICKOFF PRIMER

Impact Player
QB Gary Nova — Who else? The spotlight falls on the quarterbacks for the third year in a row between Rutgers and Louisville. Nova made multiple NFL-level throws last year against Louisville, but his miscommunication with Brandon Coleman at the end of the game sent the Cardinals to the Sugar Bowl. As a true freshman, Nova made the throw to win the game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, but Mark Harrison simply dropped it. In year three, Nova has his best compliment of wide receivers and momentum. The mistakes are still there, but if he limits them, he is in for a big day.

S Lorenzo Waters
Something to Prove
S Lorenzo Waters — Bad angles and poor communication in the defensive secondary led to 52 points against SMU in triple overtime. Waters is the most experienced defensive back on the roster, and will need to step up against Louisville. Waters is in position for a stronger game because he is so good against the run. Waters said himself this week that he would target the Rutgers secondary all day after the way it performed last week. The Rutgers defensive backs have heard plenty about Bridgewater in the buildup to this game and will be eager to meet the challenge head on.

Looking to Build
C Betim Bujari — Bujari protected well up the middle and helped open holes for the interior run game. Rutgers converted two fourth downs right up the gut, and a lot of credit goes to Bujari for being the lead blocker. Bujari's cut block to spring a screen pass for a touchdown was perfect execution. Bujari is healthy and can be a weapon against a physical Louisville defensive line.

Freshman to Watch
RB Justin Goodwin — Goodwin was electric in his debut, but can he sustain it? Logging 222 total yards and three touchdowns was as strong a start as possible, but he faces a tougher defense and tonight with the surprise factor gone. Goodwin is listed as a co-starter alongside Savon Huggins and should expect 15-25 carries against the Cardinals.


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