Rutgers (4-1, 1-0 AAC) at No. 8 Louisville (5-0, 1-0 AAC)
Rutgers leads series 7-5 (Last meeting November 29, 2012: Louisville 20, Rutgers 17)
Rutgers travels to Louisville for a pivotal Thursday night conference matchup. Since Louisville joined the Big East in 2005, the teams have met on a Thursday or Friday night every season, with the Cardinals claiming five of the eight matchups. This week’s meeting will be the second time since 1984 that the teams have met before November. Rutgers rebounded from a loss to Louisville last season to claim a share of the conference championship, but the loser will still face an uphill climb to winning the American Athletic Conference this season. Louisville has won three-in-a-row over the Scarlet Knights for the first time in the series.
Junior QB Teddy Bridgewater leads a Cardinals attack that ranks 12th nationally with 44.4 points per game. The Heisman candidate leads the American in touchdown passes (16) and completion percentage (71.7%), while ranking 2nd in passing yards (1,562). Bridgewater showed his toughness in last season’s 20-17 victory over Rutgers, throwing two touchdown passes despite playing with a broken wrist, clinching the Cardinals’ spot in the BCS. He’s healthy this season and has received plenty of help from a defense that ranks tops in the nation in points allowed (6.8 ppg).
While Louisville has won every game by more than 14 points, Rutgers has already played three games decided by four points or fewer, including two high-scoring overtime thrillers. The Scarlet Knights lost 52-51 in overtime at Fresno State to begin the season before winning a three-overtime game at SMU last weekend, 55-52. Rutgers had not scored 50+ points in a game since beating Louisville, 63-14, in 2008. Quarterback Gary Nova has spearheaded the Rutgers attack, passing for 1,171 yards and 13 touchdowns, four of which came in the overtime win over SMU.
Extra point – This season’s matchup will likely be the last between the schools for the foreseeable future … both teams are joining new conferences next season with Louisville moving to the ACC and Rutgers joining the Big Ten.