Thank God the automatic bowl berth given to the Big East Champion will go away once college football shifts to a four-team playoff the season after next. While the ACC/Notre Dame, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC all have tie-ins to the major bowls, the Big East doesn’t. Instead, the highest-rated qualifier (as chosen by a committee) from a “Group of Five” non-AQ conferences will get one spot in the major bowls.
I say this because the Big East is again a joke in 2012. Not a single team from the conference – which may cease to exist soon with the defections of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and likely either UConn or Louisville – is in the Top 25 of the most recent BCS standings. By comparison, the MAC has two. So does the WAC, and that conference will vanish after this football season.
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So a Big East team will take a BCS bowl spot, while the SEC runner-up between Alabama and Georgia won’t -- because Florida is assured of a spot and no more than two teams from one conference can play in BCS bowls. Former No. 1 Kansas State (it it loses to Texas) also could be shut out because the Big East gets a spot. Ditto for Stanford (it if loses to UCLA on Friday) or Florida State (if it loses to Georgia Tech on Saturday).
But it is what it is until 2014, so the winner of Thursday night’s Rutgers-Louisville game will likely play in the Orange Bowl opposite the ACC champ. If Rutgers beats Louisville, it is the outright conference champion. Should Louisville win, there could be as much as a four-way tie for the title between the Cards, Scarlet Knights, Syracuse (season over) and Cincinnati (if it beats UConn this weekend).
Should that happen, Cincinnati and Syracuse would be eliminated from the tiebreaker because Rutgers and Louisville would own 2-1 records against the other three teams. The team with the highest BCS rank would earn the Big East’s BCS bid, almost surely Louisville by beating Rutgers. If Cincy loses to the Huskies, Rutgers, UL and Syracuse all own 1-1 marks vs. one another. So again it goes to the school with the highest BCS rank, and again that would be Louisville.
Louisville at Rutgers Betting Storylines
Let’s get to the big injury question first: Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater, the lock Big East Offensive Player of the Year. He broke his left (non-throwing) wrist and sprained an ankle in Saturday’s 23-20 triple-overtime loss to UConn, the Cards’ second straight defeat. He returned vs. the Huskies even with those injuries. Coach Charlie Strong says Bridgewater will play Thursday – but he might have to go out of shotgun the whole game. Bridgewater is the seventh-rated QB in the nation, completing 68.8 percent of his passes for 3,189 yards, 23 TDs and six picks.
The Rutgers defenders already have made a note of Bridgewater’s injuries and have said they will target those, in no uncertain terms. Rutgers plays a very aggressive scheme as it is, and Bridgewater has been under siege the past few weeks. The Huskies sacked him four times and hit him many more. The problem is that teams don’t respect the Louisville running game. The Cards recently lost starting tailback Senorise Perry for the season and have managed a combined 75 yards on the ground in the past two games without him.
Rutgers wouldn’t be in this winner-take-all spot if it had taken care of business last week, but the Scarlet Knights were dominated 27-6 at Pittsburgh. Rutgers QB Gary Nova struggled, completing 18-of-37 passes for 157 yards, a touchdown and a pick. Nova took a big hit late in the first quarter and sat out a series before returning for the remainder of the game. Nova has a whopping 12 turnovers the past five games, but first-year coach Kyle Flood has declined to turn to backup Chas Dodd, although he did play that one series when Nova was hurt. The two QBs had a close race in fall camp to determine the starter. Rutgers starting running back Jawan Jamison tweaked an old ankle injury against Pitt but will start. But he has had 13 combined carries for 51 yards in the past two games. Louisville has had trouble stopping the run this season, however.
Louisville leads the series 4-3 since the teams became Big East members. The Cards have won two straight vs. Rutgers. Last year at home, Louisville won, 16-14. Nova threw three picks, while Bridgewater was held to 122 yards through the air. Both teams are ranked in the USA Today Top 25, so this will be just the fifth game in Rutgers history when it’s ranked and faces a ranked opponent. The Knights are 1-3 in the first four, although the win came over No. 3 Louisville six years ago. The Cards are 3-18 all-time on the road vs. ranked foes.
Louisville at Rutgers Betting Odds and Trends
On BookMaker, Rutgers is a three-point favorite with the total at 43.5. Louisville is 4-7 ATS this season (1-3 on road) and 6-4 “over/under”. Rutgers is 7-4 ATS (3-2 at home) and 3-7 over/under.
Louisville is 1-4 ATS in its past five Big East games. The Cards are 6-1 in their past seven after a loss. Rutgers is 5-1 ATS in its past six Big East games. It has covered four of its past five after a loss. The over is 6-2 in Louisville’s past eight road games. The under is 5-1 in Rutgers’ past six at home. The favorite has covered in the past five meetings. The over is 5-1 in the past six (all but last year).
College Football Picks: Louisville at Rutgers and Football Predictions
Rutgers has won three straight Thursday night ESPN games, including earlier this year over South Florida. Louisville is 5-1 under head coach Charlie Strong on short weeks (six days or less). It’s the Cards’ first Thursday night ESPN game since losing at Rutgers four years ago.
I believe Louisville is the better team overall, but with the fact Bridgewater clearly won’t be 100 percent and how the short week hugely favors the home team, Rutgers is the choice. I expect both offenses to struggle, so definitely the under.
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