Posted: Thursday November 9, 2006 11:31AM; Updated: Thursday November 9, 2006 5:27PM
With Louisville likely gearing up to stop the run, Rutgers QB Mike Teel must step up for the Scarlet Knights to have a chance at an upset.
Austin Murphy will answer questions from SI.com users.
Last week it was Louisville's turn to bask in the novelty of its big-time football relevance. "The Showdown in the 'Ville," as the Cardinals' historic upset of West Virginia was dubbed, was hailed as the biggest game in the history of the city, the Bluegrass State and the Big East Conference.
That heady, surreal sense of belonging with the big boys has migrated from the Falls of the Ohio, where Louisville is located, to "the banks of the Old Raritan." So go the lyrics of the Rutgers alma mater, composed by Howard Fullerton in 1873 -- a full four years after his university made history fielding a team which clashed with Princeton in the first-ever college football game. (Rutgers won, 6-4, despite the admonition of an umbrella-waving professor who shouted at players on both sides, "You will come to no Christian end!")
It's been 137 years, but the 8-0, 15th-ranked Scarlet Knights will finally play a game of comparable magnitude. In the Big East's second battle of ranked unbeatens in seven days, No. 3 Louisville visits Rutgers Stadium tonight. Ticket-seeking students camped out in a shantytown named for the head coach (in this case, "Schianoville"). For the first time in its history, a ranked Rutgers team will face a ranked opponent.
Perhaps you saw what the Brian Brohm-led Cardinals did to the Mountaineers a week ago, looking off safeties, threading passes through narrow apertures, absolutely carving up the visitors for 354 yards and a touchdown in a 44-34 victory. Louisville's superb junior quarterback did this despite being just seven weeks removed from surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb.
Brohm's play was "just incredible," marveled Greg Schiano earlier this week. "He's a sure-fire first-round pick and the whole deal," said the Knights head coach, who described tonight's matchup as "a huge challenge."
So, does Rutgers have a prayer?
Of course it does. Schiano has been waiting for six years to coach in a game like this: the opportunity to knock off a top-five team on national TV. This is not the Mountaineers defense the Cardinals will be going up against. As exciting a game as it was last Thursday night, did you not find yourself wondering, "Will either of these defenses ever make a stop?"
Schiano, whose previous gig was as defensive coordinator at Miami, doubles as his own defensive coordinator at Rutgers, and his guys are made of sterner stuff than anyone Louisville has seen this season. The Knights are ranked second in the nation in pass defense (West Virginia is 66th), scoring defense (9.1 points per game) and total defense (227 yards per game).
Can the Knights speedy-but-undersized front seven get heat on Brohm? They can't bring it with too much abandon: Brohm has been the beneficiary of a dynamic rushing attack. Despite the loss of preseason Heisman hopeful Michael Bush, a committee of Cardinals backs has averaged over 200 yards per game on the ground. But as the sages at ScarletNation.com point out, that attack tends to dwindle against the toughest foes (Miami limited U of L's backs to under 100 rushing yards; West Virginia held them to 114).