(Long Island, NY) What a difference a year makes. Maybe. We’ll see after the big Thursday night match-up on ESPN, which pits the Cinderella team from Rutgers against the Louisville Cardinals. Both teams are 8-0 so far in the NCAA season. Last season, the Cards whipped the Knights, 56-5, in Louisville. This one is in New Jersey, and Rutgers wasn’t even a blip on the national radar screen then.
In 2006, Rutgers ranks second nationally in yards (227.4) and points allowed per game (9.1). That’s nothing to scoff at, even for the big schools around the country. Louisville is coming off a big upset win against West Virginia last week and look to maintain their position as a major player. They currently reside at number three in the AP rankings, while Rutgers sits at number 15. There are five undefeated in the top 25 nationally. Besides Louisville and Rutgers, the top two clubs are 10-0 (Ohio State and Michigan, respectively), and the 9-0 Boise State are one spot ahead of Rutgers. This game has huge implications and the fallout should be very interesting.
This will be the first time in the 137-year history of Rutgers football that they will be ranked a facing a ranked opponent. Besides national implications, this game is also a battle for first place in the Big East, where both teams are 3-0. With the win last week against UConn, Rutgers will at least enjoy its first eight-win season since 1979.
If Rutgers is to have a chance to win this game, they must contain Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm. Rutgers’ head coach Greg Schiano also doubles as the team’s defensive coordinator and will look to improve on what occurred last November. Brohm torched the Scarlet Knights’ secondary for 315 yards and three touchdowns. Rutgers has already surpassed their team interception total from last season by four. Sophomore safety Courtney Green has three of the team’s 10 this season.
Rutgers will have to control time of possession with their backfield tandem of tailback Ray Rice and fullback Brian Leonard. Rice is being considered as a Heisman Trophy candidate. The second-year back has run for 100-yards in six games this season, which also include three 200-yard performances. In 20 career games, Rice has gone over the 100-yard mark on 11 occasions.
Quarterback Mike Teel has had a fine season, and enjoyed his finest game on October 14th in the win versus Navy. Teel had career highs with 15 completions, 215 passing yards and three touchdowns.
It has been a big season in Piscataway and the Scarlet Knights hope to continue that after the nationally televised contest. Something has got to give tonight for two teams with unblemished records. Red versus red. It doesn’t get any better than this.