Who Has the Edge in the Rutgers-Louisville game?
RUTGERS' OFFENSE VS. LOUISVILLE'S DEFENSE
Statistically, Rutgers has the decided advantage in this category, but a look deeper tells a different story.
Rutgers has the best running back in the Big East in Ray Rice. The true junior averages 166.5 yards per game and has strung together six consecutive 100-yard games. The passing game has averaged 245.5 yards per game. But Rutgers has managed just 150 passing yards combined on 8-for-30 passing over the past two games. Starter Mike Teel is nursing an injured thumb on his throwing hand, and backup Jabu Lovelace is ineffective as a passer.
Louisville has one of the worst defenses in the league. The Cardinals yield 416.3 yards of total offense per game, including 166.5 per game on the ground. They are 112th in the nation in pass efficiency, but that number is meaningless if Teel can't throw the ball. Since the opening game against Division I-AA Murray State, Louisville has held one team under 300 yards of total offense. Big East squads average 413 yards total offense on UL.
LOUISVILLE'S OFFENSE VS. RUTGERS' DEFENSE
On paper, you would think that this would be a matchup of strength versus strength, as Louisville statistically has one of the best pass offenses in the country (351.5 yards per game) and Rutgers has one of the best pass defenses (153.5 ypg). The Scarlet Knights have allowed 184 yards per game in Big East competition. Louisville averages 489 yards per game on offense and 344.3 yards per game passing. The Cardinals have turned the ball over 11 times in the last two contests.
UL presents the best passer in the Big East, as Brian Brohm has thrown for an average of 344.3 yards per game. He has thrown 29 touchdown passes to just 12 interceptions. Brohm is a potential National Football League lottery pick in the draft next April, and this is his last regular-season opportunity to prove his mettle.
Neither side is particular strong in kick and punt return or kickoffs and punts. However, each team has a reliable place-kicker. Louisville's Art Carmody is 11-for-15, including 8-for-9 from 20-39 yards. Rutgers' Ito is 21-for-28, including making eight of his last 10 attempts. Ito has made one from 51 yards and one from 48 while Carmody's best is from 42 yards.
Ito beat Louisville on a last-second field goal last season. If it comes down to long kicks, you have to give the edge to the guy who has actually made one of at least 50 yards this year.
RU head coach Greg Schiano took some flak from area media outlets this season when the Scarlet Knights twice lost back-to-back games. But he is still the reigning national coach of the year and has compiled a 25-21 record since the beginning of 2005. He has the Scarlet Knights on target for their third straight bowl appearance.
Loiusville head coach Steve Kragthorpe, a hotshot at Tulsa before coming to the Big East, took over for Bobby Petrino in the offseason and watched the wheels fall off early in the season in back-to-back losses to Kentucky and Syracuse. He has engendered anger among the Louisville faithful, and a recent rumor had him skipping out on Louisville to head to Southern Methodist after this year. That's right, SMU of Conference USA.
Rutgers is coming off its best defensive performance of the season, when the stop unit worked on a short field against Pitt and held the Panthers to just one touchdown. The Scarlet Knights are going to a Big East bowl for the third straight season, and this game could determine the difference between Birmingham or Toronto and Charlotte and El Paso -- along with the associated payouts.
Louisville is coming off its worst defeat in a decade (a 55-17 loss at South Florida) in which it seemed to give up on Kragthorpe. The Cardinals can still gain bowl eligibility with a victory on Thursday, but their chances for a bowl rely on gaining an at-large berth from a vacated bowl. Louisville had its sights set on a national championship heading into the season and is now fighting to finish .500.
RU transformed from one of the worst teams in college football into a perennial bowl contender. The Scarlet Knights are headed to their third consecutive postseason appearance after just one in the previous 136 years.
Louisville once made the leap from one of the worst teams in college football into a perennial bowl contender. The Cardinals have played in four straight bowl games and won the Orange Bowl as the Big East champion last season. UL has not had a losing season since 1999.