No. 23 Louisville at No. 25 Rutgers
Thursday, 7:30pm EST on ESPN
Line: Rutgers -3
Well, the BCS could become massively screwed up or we could see the Big East champion actually make it to the Orange Bowl, the choice comes down to what happens tonight between Louisville and Rutgers. If you are in favor of a non-messy BCS situation then it's to your benefit to be rooting for Rutgers to make their 1st ever BCS appearance. However, should Louisville win it'll be a case of let the fun begin.
Why? Because should Louisville win it'll be a three way tie atop the Big East and then they need to somehow hope and pray that the winner of the MAC Championship game (Northern Illinois vs. Kent State) doesn't get into the top 16 of the BCS standings – which isn't likely.
Now, with all of that on the line this game could be very, very entertaining on the field because both of these teams are more than capable of being very good on any given day/night. However, both have also been capable of being very average at best too.
How Louisville wins: This is going to be interesting because star QB Teddy Bridgewater isn't going to be 100% for this matchup and any Louisville victory has centered on his ability and leadership. For me the Cardinals need to lean on a rushing game that hasn't been there in recent weeks and really most of the season. That means leaning on a pair of RB's in Jeremy Wright and Senorise Perry who both have over 700 yards rushing on the season.
Louisville needs one of them to become a dominate force early on or it could be a long night for the Cardinals. That could be easier said than done because over the past two games against solid defenses the 'Ville rushing game has disappeared to the tune of less than 100 yards as a team. If they can't find a running game in this one there's simply no way they win.
How Rutgers wins: Defense and special teams are the key for the Scarlet Knights in this one. They will win if they can not make special teams mistakes as they are vastly better than the Cardinals at that facet of the game. Defensively they could have a field day with an injured Teddy Bridgewater and a Louisville running game that hasn't been running on full cylinders as of late. If they can continue to play the solid defense they've found in winning football games this team will be just fine. After all they are giving up less than 2TD's on average this season (13.7 points per game).
Offensively they need to regroup after last week's effort against Pitt. They need to reestablish the solid run game they have had all season long because 50 yards as a team rushing isn't going to win football games. I fully expect that number to not be duplicated as they are going against a Louisville defense that gives up 159.9 yards a game.
Key Player, Louisville: The easy answer is Teddy Bridgewater and while it may seem like I'm taking the easy way out it's hard to ignore the fact that the best player on your team is coming in less than 100% and probably more like 60% healthy. If Louisville wants to win they'll need Bridgewater to at least not be a hindrance to the offense. If he can be 80% of what he's been for this team all season long it could really add to the Cardinals chances of winning.
Key Player, Rutgers: Speaking of Teddy Bridgewater, Rutgers could be keyed by one Logan Ryan against him. Ryan is 2nd on the team in tackles and leads the team with 4 interceptions. If Rutgers wants to make life really difficult for the Louisville offense Logan will play a keep part in that for me. He's got 77 tackles and 4 tackles for loss from his cornerback position and he could be a very big part of this game tonight.
Key Stat: 1-3, that is the Rutgers record in games where they are ranked and faced a ranked opponent themselves. Why is that a key stat, not just a curious one? Well, they're only win in this scenario happens to have come against Louisville. That came when Louisville was ranked No. 3 in the country in 2006 and was a 28-25 win at home nonetheless.
There's no way around this one having huge implications for the BCS. If Louisville wins it's very likely we'll see either Northern Illinois or Kent State in the Orange Bowl, likely against Florida State. However, if history repeats itself and Rutgers wins it'll help boost their profile as they head to the Big Ten in just two seasons having already made a BCS bowl birth, something quite a few Big Ten teams haven't been able to do themselves.
For more of Andy's thoughts on college football and college sports in general follow him on Twitter @andycoppens.