After rushing out to undefeated records, the two top teams in the Big East have now both absorbed defeats and fallen from the BCS National Rankings.
Rutgers suffered its first defeat at the hands of Kent State on Oct. 27, whereas Louisville fell on Nov. 10 at Syracuse.
Both teams are 9-2 on the season and are meeting for the twelfth time in their history. RU leads the all-time series 7-4-0, however, Louisville has won the last two games between the two.
To win, Rutgers will need to rely on its defense, which is currently ranked No. 4 in the nation.
Against RU's defense (which surrenders an average of 13.7 points per game), quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will lead the No. 40-ranked Louisville offense. The sophomore QB is 247-of-359 for 3,189 yards this season—one of the many reasons why the Cardinals average 32 points per game.
Bridgewater is Louisville's primary weapon, boasting a QB rating of 161.2 with 23 touchdown passes this season.
Ranked No. 26 nationally in passing yards, the Louisville aerial attack is prolific to say the least. The Cardinals have a myriad of wide receivers to whom Bridgewater can distribute the ball, including Damian Copeland (42 receptions), Eli Rogers (38 receptions), DeVante Parker (35 receptions) and Andrell Smith (27 receptions).
The dual-threat of running back Jeremy Wright may pose problems for the RU linebackers, where he is both a talented runner (723 yards and nine touchdowns) and a capable receiver (33 receptions).
The junior running back is complimented nicely by fellow junior Senorise Perry, who can catch (18 receptions), as well as contribute solidly in the running game (705 yards, 11 TDs).
The two teams appear to be evenly matched, and besides having identical records, the real question on Thursday night will be: Which team will be able to put together a winning scheme in a short week?
"We need to approach this game the exact same way we approached the first 11 games,” said RU coach Kyle Flood (via Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News). “Do everything we can to prepare, practice as well as we can, execute on offense."
Rutgers must also contend with a number of starters who may see limited action due to injury. Two key players who sustained injuries against Pittsburgh were QB Gary Nova and LB Khaseem Greene and, while they will play Thursday night, their effectiveness may be compromised.
Additionally, the lingering ankle injuries of RB Jawan Jamison and Andre Civil remain a concern for the Knights, as does injured lineman Taj Alexander.
One major deficit that the Knights continue to deal with this season is the hip injury of kicker Kyle Federico, who will miss Thursday's game.
For Louisville, more than the inherent problems associated with a short week to prepare is the Cardinals' bigger concern: the injury to QB Teddy Bridgewater.
Originally listed as questionable for the game, most recent reports indicate that he is likely to play (per Tom Luicci of The Star-Ledger on NJ.com) in the game. How effective he will be remains a question due to a left wrist injury and a right ankle injury.
"Yes, Teddy will play," said Louisville head coach Charlie Strong (per Luicci's The Star Ledger article). "He finished against Connecticut, so it's nothing different."
If the Scarlet Knights win the game, the Big East title is theirs, and not only would it be their first, it would also be their first BCS bowl berth.
However, if they lose and the Cincinnati Bearcats win their game, it would create a four-way tie for first, with each team's final ranking determining the BCS bowl berth.
Game Time: 7:30 p.m. ET, Thursday, Nov. 29, High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, N.J. Television: ESPN
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