Week 7 - Rutgers at Louisville

Posted Oct 10, 2013

Week 7 Fearless Predictions & Preview - Louisville vs. Rutgers

- Temple at Cincy, USF at UConn, Memphis at Houston

Rutgers (4-1) at Louisville (5-0) Oct. 10, 7:30, ESPN

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Louisville is confident it's one of the best programs in the country. On Thursday night, it gets a national audience to showcase its wares as it hopefully shrinks the legion of doubters.

The Cardinals are a very good football team. Heck, they're No. 8 in the polls and a heavy favorite to capture a second straight BCS bowl berth. However, beyond being the American Athletic Conference bully, not many people are taking them seriously as a contender for Pasadena on Jan. 6. The reality for Louisville is that its schedule is terrible, with the toughest test to date coming against 1-4 Kentucky. Beating recent rival Rutgers won't result in a flood of converts, but it does afford the Cards a much-needed chance to make a statement in primetime.

While the Cardinals and the Scarlet Knights have played in some classic games in recent years, this marks the last one between them for the foreseeable future. Next year, Louisville heads to the ACC, while Rutgers begins life in the Big Ten. The Knights are seeking revenge for last November's loss in the series that denied them a Big East championship. Rutgers has won its last two over Arkansas and SMU, taking its foot off the gas against the Mustangs in a shootout that lasted three overtimes.

Why Rutgers Might Win: With Teddy Bridgewater in the other huddle, the Scarlet Knights know they'll need touchdowns and not field goals on Thursday. Having scored at least 50 points twice in five games already, Rutgers knows it's up to the challenge.

The Knights rank 22nd nationally in scoring, moving the ball with balance and efficiency. The running game has endured through injuries, while the passing attack is piloted by veteran QB Gary Nova. Nova has thrown 13 touchdown passes to just four picks, while stretching the field with TE Tyler Kroft and receivers Brandon Coleman and Leonte Carroo. Louisville has been statistically good on defense, but it has yet to face as much skill talent as Rutgers will roll out this week.

Why Louisville Might Win: Bridgewater willed his team to victory in this game last year. If necessary, he'll do it again in 2013.

Bridgewater is a special player, the most influential one in this showdown. He's going to be assisted by a Rutgers pass defense that's young and currently ranking 116th in the FBS. While the Knights have kept plays in front of them, they've also given up 13 touchdown passes. It's a good thing for the Cards that they're very deep on the outside, because big-play threat DeVante Parker may have to sit this one out with an injured shoulder. Louisville might find running lanes congested against Rutgers, which will place even more of the weight on Bridgewater's shoulders.

Who To Watch Out For: Paul James remains out. Savon Huggins will get his second start. But true freshman Justin Goodwin appears to be Rutgers' best bet to move the ball on the ground. The unfazed rookie came off the bench in Dallas last week to rush for 149 yards and two touchdowns.

- Just how good is this Louisville D? No one in the country is allowing fewer points, less than seven per game, and it's been air-tight on third downs. Still, Rutgers isn't Ohio or Temple. It'll be very interesting to see how the Cardinals respond once the Knights execute a couple of successful drives.

- LB Steve Longa continues to be a revelation for Rutgers in his first year of action. Never far from the ball, he leads the team with 50 tackles to go along with four stops for loss, three sacks and a couple of forced fumbles. Rutgers wants to hit Bridgewater, with Longa a candidate to come hard on the blitz.

- Rutgers is giving up too many sacks, 14 in five games. It has a lot to worry about this week, primarily Louisville ends Marcus Smith and Lorenzo Mauldin, who've combined for 14 stops behind the line and 8.5 sacks.
What Will Happen: Anything less than a competitive, hard-fought game between these two familiar programs would come as a complete shock.

Rutgers and Louisville know each other well, and they know what's at stake in this one. The Cardinals will be fired up, but they're also not nearly as battle-tested as the Scarlet Knights. The difference, naturally, will be the gap at quarterback between Nova and Bridgewater. In a close game that'll put the two hurlers under the microscope, Bridgewater will deliver, using the spotlight to show why he's one of the country's most clutch passers under pressure.

Prediction: Louisville 32 … Rutgers 24
Line: Louisville -17 o/u: 54.5
Must See Rating: (5 Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight – 1 I Dream of NeNe: The Wedding) … 3.5
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