Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Louisville Cardinals Preview and Pick

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7-4) +2.5, 60 O/U at Louisville Cardinals (5-6)
-2.5, 60 O/U Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium, 7:30 PM Eastern, Thursday

by Badger of

Two teams that were expected to do more this season, but have
sputtered instead, will meet in a lackluster season finale Thursday
when Rutgers travels to take on Louisville on ESPN.

Rutgers (7-4, 3-3 Big East) was everyones darling last year, as they
came from out of nowhere to become one of the top teams in the Big
East. This year, they’re not as pretty. They are coming off of an
unspectacular 20-16 victory over Pittsburgh back on November 17th,
followed by a bye week to prepare for the finale versus Louisville.

Louisville (5-6, 2-4) is easily the biggest disappointment of 2007.
The Cardinals were ranked high at the start of the season, and have
slowly gone into the crapper as the season as wore on. Their most
recent embarrassment was a 55-17 loss to South Florida, also back on
November 17th, so they too have had an extra week to prepare for the

Most sportsbooks opened the game with Louisville as a 3-point favorite, with a total of 60.

Rutgers features a strong running game on offense, led by Ray Rice.
Rice has over 1,600 yards on the season, and powers the Scarlet Knights
rushing attack that is ranked 30th in the NCAA (193.5 ypg). The offense
feeds off of Rice, and has decent numbers to show for it: 445.1 yards per
game 30th ; 30.5 points per game 44th. If there is a weakness, its
quarterback Mike Teels accuracy throwing the ball.

The optimism that surrounded Louisville centered on the return of
quarterback Brian Brohm. Brohm is still playing like a first-round
NFL draft pick (3,787 yards, 29 TD’s), but the rest of the Cardinal
attack has been shaky at best. Louisville still has solid offensive
statistics (500.6 ypg 7th ; 34.6 ppg 23rd), but as we all know,
statistics don’t necessarily translate into wins.

Defense is where these two teams differ greatly.

Rutgers defense is ranked 9th overall in yards allowed (305.2) and
has allowed the Scarlet Knights to stay close in just about every
game they’ve played this season. They allow just 20.1 points per
game, and have only been blown out against two of the Big Easts best
offensive clubs, West Virginia and Connecticut.

Louisvilles defense on the other hand is ranked 85th overall (416.4
ypg) and is the main reason why the Cardinals have been a major
disappointment. Teams are averaging nearly five yards per carry, and
14 yards per reception and 30.8 points per game. No matter how you
slice it and dice it, that just doesn’t cut it in Division 1 football.

Last years game between these two schools was the 28-25 thriller won
by Rutgers on a last second field goal. The year before Louisville
had there way with Rutgers, 56-5, but that was before the Scarlet
Knights program was worthy of Big East caliber football.

Neither team has been worth the risk for sports bettors this season,
as Rutgers is 5-5 ATS and Louisville is just 3-7 versus the number.
The Scarlet Knights are just 1-3 ATS in their last four game, but
they do tend to play well when the smell blood, as they are 12-4 ATS
versus a team with a losing record. Louisville is also just 1-3 ATS
in the last four contests, but have gone over the total in their past
two games.

The line opened with Louisville as a 3-point chalk, and has dropped to
2.5 as the public seems to be jumping on the home underdog Cardinals. The
total hasn’t moved from 60 yet, so either the oddsmakers have gotten it
right or the betting public isn’t ready to play on the total until later
in the week.

Badgers Pick: There are many reason to like Louisville in this
one Brohm playing his last college game before moving on to the NFL, head
coach Steve Kragthorpe’s denial that hes already looking at other coaching
openings, the revenge factor that the Cards loss at Rutgers last season
knocked them out of a BCS bowl game. Its just too bad the Cardinals defense
is so porous. The over may be the best bet of them all, but Id take Rutgers
to cover plus the points.