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October 10, 2013

Rutgers vs. Louisville: Game Preview

Rutgers vs. Louisville
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. at Papa John's Stadium in Louisville, Ky.

What's at stake: Each team will be looking to move to 2-0 in AAC league play. Rutgers began conference play with a 55-52 triple overtime win last week over SMU. Louisville started its conference schedule with a 30-7 win over Temple.

Series history: Rutgers lead the all-time series 7-5. Louisville has won the last three meetings, the previous two by a total of five points. In primetime games on ESPN, the series is tied 2-2.

Rutgers wins if:
  • The RU defense slows down Teddy Bridgewater. The Cardinals' starting quarterback has 16 touchdowns to just one interception this season. He is among the very best in the country and keeping Bridgewater contained will be vital to Rutgers' success.
  • Gary Nova plays has a huge game. Making up for deficiencies in the running game and on the defensive side of the football could all fall on Nova's shoulders. If he can continually move the Rutgers offense downfield, it will be a huge plus. And in a high scoring affair, a precise Nova will be necessary for RU to emerge victorious.

Rutgers loses if:
  • The defense cannot find a way to shut down the Cardinal passing game. Rutgers has given up 940 passing yards against SMU and Fresno State as each team totaled 52 points against the Scarlet Knights. A repeat performance by the RU defense against Louisville won't make this a close game.
  • The RU defense does not get any pressure. Leaving Teddy Bridgewater with time in the pocket would enable him to pick the RU defense apart. A steady pass rush will also take some of the pressure off Rutgers' young and very green secondary.

Keep an eye on
The Rutgers true freshmen. Rutgers will have three freshmen looking to play a key part in tonight's game. Running back Justin Goodwin could very well see the lion's share of the carries tonight. He proved very effective last week against SMU rushing for 149 yards while adding 73 receiving yards as well as scoring the game-winning touchdown.

Return specialist Janarion Grant has made a big difference this year for Rutgers with two touchdowns. Rutgers will most likely need some special teams fireworks tonight to come away with a win. Grant is very capable of providing those fireworks.

Cornerback Nadir Barnwell could earn his third consecutive start. This will be his biggest test of the year as the former four-star prospect will be facing arguably the best quarterback in the country. What a difference a year makes for the true freshman.

They said it
Darius Hamilton on facing Teddy Bridgewater:

"We've got to get after him. Obviously, Teddy is a great player. He does great things in the pocket. He does great things escaping defenders outside of the pocket. He's got great players up front, great receivers, great running back. Overall, they're a really good team…We've just got to get after him and play our style of defense."

Lorenzo Waters on fixing the communication in the secondary:

"That was kind of game-specific, so I'm not really worried about some of the communication things we were doing for SMU. Overall, it's just about being together and seeing that we're all kind of recognizing the same thing-when we see certain formations, that we're all on the same page."

Charlie Strong on the Rutgers-Louisville rivalry coming to an end:

"The last few years has been a great battle, great matchup and yeah, we have so much for respect for their program and I know they feel the same way about us. You're going to lose that now that we're going into different conferences. That's going to happen when you start moving all these teams around, you lose all of these rivalries."

The odds
The oddsmakers leaned heavily towards Louisville with what is now a 19-point spread. This number seems a little high for what figures to be a hard fought battle between familiar opponents. Taking Rutgers with the points looks to be a smart bet even though its defense has yielded 104 points against two similar offenses. Look for Rutgers to cover on the road tonight as 19 just seems like much too high of a number.

Did you know...
  • From the start of his head coaching career at Rutgers, Kyle Flood has experienced one streak after the other. He started things off with seven straight wins and followed it up with a loss to Kent State. Flood responded with two wins followed by four losses and is now riding a four game winning streak. 
  • Rutgers has scored 28 points or more in the first five games. That is a first in school history. The Scarlet Knights are averaging 40 points through the first five games compared to 25.4 points per game through the five games of last season.
  • The longest punt return last year for Rutgers was 22 yards. This season, true freshman Janarion Grant returned punts for 48 and 57 yards in the Arkansas game alone. He is averaging 11.4 yards per return. Last year, as a team, Rutgers averaged 6.5 yards per return.
Key Injuries
Louisville - WR Devante Parker. The Cardinals' leading receiver with 21 catches for 395 yards and six touchdowns is healing up from a shoulder injury and will be a game time decision.

Rutgers - RB Paul James. When he went down with a lower leg injury late in game no.4, James was the nation's leading rusher with 573 yards. He is out for tonight's game.

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