Close victories over Rutgers in each of the last two seasons allowed Louisville to earn a share of the Big East title. As members of the American Athletic Conference, little is expected to change Thursday when the eighth-ranked Cardinals host the Scarlet Knights in the first and perhaps the only game between the schools as rivals in the newly formed league. While Rutgers is set to become a member of the Big Ten in 2014, Louisville will leave for the ACC.
A two-point win in 2011 over the Scarlet Knights sparked a 5-1 finish for the Cardinals and helped them secure a three-way tie for the conference title, while a three-point victory in 2012 forged a four-way tie and led to a Sugar Bowl triumph. Louisville is 5-0 for the second time in as many seasons in 2013 and has outscored its opponents 222-34. Rutgers has won four straight, but may find it difficult to recover on short rest after Saturday’s 55-52 triple-overtime win at Southern Methodist.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Louisville -17
ABOUT RUTGERS (4-1, 1-0 AAC): The Scarlet Knights have scored 28 points or more in each of the first five games for the first time in school history. One of the major reasons for the offensive output has been the play of quarterback Gary Nova, who ranks second in the conference with 13 touchdown passes and has thrown only four interceptions. Two of Nova’s 16 interceptions last season came in a 20-17 loss to Louisville, including one near midfield late in the fourth quarter as Rutgers was driving for a potential game-tying field goal.
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (5-0, 1-0): While quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has looked every bit like the top NFL Draft pick he is expected to become (AAC-leading 16 touchdowns and 71.7 percent completion percentage), the Cardinals’ defense has been nearly as impressive. Louisville is allowing a Division I-best 6.8 points per game and has collected nine turnovers, which has helped lead to the nation’s sixth-best turnover margin (plus-1.4). Louisville coach Charlie Strong said wide receiver DeVante Parker is day-to-day after he injured his right shoulder in Saturday’s 30-7 victory at Temple.
1. Bridgewater has thrown a touchdown pass in 17 consecutive games, tied with Dave Ragone for the most in school history.
2. Rutgers ranks 22nd in the country in scoring offense (40 points per game) after finishing 98th a season ago.
3. The Cardinals have outscored their opponents 127-3 in the first half.
PREDICTION: Louisville 34, Rutgers 24