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October 10, 2013

Rutgers vs Louisville: Who has the edge?

Rutgers takes the field in Louisville this evening as the 4-1 Scarlet Knights battle the undefeated Cardinals. Will the Rutgers defense be able to stop Teddy Bridgewater and the high-powered Louisville offense? We went to our resident experts - Bobby Deren and Howie Lindsey - for their insights!
Bobby Deren

Howie Lindsey
Louisville is the team to beat in the AAC and that has a lot to do with its potent offense. Rutgers has made strides this season on the offensive side of the football, but still trails the Cardinals in this category. As long as Teddy Bridgewater is on the field for Louisville, it will be tough for any AAC team to top this offensive unit. Rutgers has closed the gap, but the absence of leading rusher Paul James will put more onus on the passing game. Even if James was in the lineup, Louisville still gets the edge.
Which team has the more potent offense? Louisville's offense has so many options. All three top running backs can really punish a defense, and Teddy Bridgewater is legitimately the best quarterback in the country. The Cardinals will likely be without DeVante Parker, the top touchdown threat at wide receiver, but there is still more than enough talent to make them formidable.
Brandon Coleman. He has not seemed to be himself this season as an offseason knee injury may have slowed him down a step. He came up with a big 85-yard touchdown reception last year against Louisville and when he is firing on all cylinders, it makes the RU passing game that much more effective. If Coleman can get going against the Cardinals, it will open up opportunities for Rutgers' squadron of receivers. Who is the Offensive 'X Factor,' and why?
Tight end Gerald Christian could be a key to this game. Rutgers' defensive line will provide pressure so having an outlet like Christian across the middle could be big for Teddy Bridgewater. Christian is a full, grown man. I'd hate to try to tackle him.
This one is not very close as Rutgers has faltered against both high-powered passing offenses it has faced this season. SMU and Fresno State combined to throw for 940 yards against the Scarlet Knights and amassed a total of 104 points collectively. Meanwhile, the Cardinal defense is ranked No.3 in the nation, although their first five games have been against questionable competition. Nevertheless, Louisville trumps Rutgers handily in this one. Which team has the better defense?
Louisville definitely has the better defense, although Rutgers' rush defense has been pretty impressive so far this season. Louisville has two of the best safeties in the country, two of the top three sack artists in the league and a corps of linebackers that could all play at the next level.
Defensive coordinator Dave Cohen. Thus far, Cohen has not had an answer for the spread offenses Rutgers has faced. Granted Cohen's secondary is very green and took a huge step down after seeing three of its former defensive backs drafted last year. But if Cohen can scheme up a solid game plan, it could take the RU defense a long way. The Rutgers defense may need an edge in the coaching department if the Scarlet Knights intend to keep pace with the Cardinals for four quarters.
Who is the defensive 'X Factor,' and why?
Defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin could be a big factor in this game. Both teams will want to stop the run, so the game will be won or lost in the air. Mauldin, a sack specialist will go after Gary Nova with a vengeance. He likens himself to the Predator, taking a mask with him on road trips.
Special teams will play a factor if RU is to pull off the upset. True freshman Janarion Grant has been brilliant in the return game and will need to make a big play or two tonight. Nick Marsh has done a decent job punting and although the RU placekicking situation has been suspect, the amount of special teams weapons Rutgers possesses is enough to sway this one in favor of the Scarlet Knights.
Who has the edge on special teams?
Rutgers has the edge. Louisville's kickers are good, the placekicker is very good, but Rutgers' return game has been impressive and Louisville's kick coverage unit is shakier than a two-legged giraffe.
Especially after last year's game between these two, it would be tough not to give Louisville the advantage. Bridgewater is arguably the best quarterback in the nation and managed to defeat RU last year with a wrist and ankle injury. Now completely healthy and with an extra year of experience, Bridgewater would get the edge against most teams in the country. Advantage Louisville. Which team drives the length of the field?

Louisville does. Louisville has so many options and Teddy Bridgewater is so good at finding those options. He found nine different receivers in the first half against Temple. Plus, Gary Nova has a penchant for the untimely turnover.
This game is essentially a league title game for Rutgers because without a win, it might be next to impossible for the Scarlet Knights to earn a trip to a BCS bowl. Expect the Scarlet Knights to come out with a lot of energy and play some decent football. But the RU defense hasn't proven to be capable enough to stop this high-octane Cardinal offense. Louisville 38 Rutgers 28. Which team will win? Predict the score........
Louisville will win, but I don't think they will beat the spread. That 16.5 number is shockingly high. So high it makes me think Vegas knows something. They always do.

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