Louisville Looks to Stay Undefeated on Thursday Night
Louisville may be in position for a berth in the national championship game, but coach Bobby Petrino isn’t anxious to talk about it.
He’s more worried about gaining sole possession of first place in the Big East as the third-ranked Cardinals try to knock off an unbeaten team for the second straight week when they visit No. 15 Rutgers on Thursday night.
Louisville (8-0, 3-0) vaulted to No. 3 in the Bowl Championship Series standings after last Thursday’s 44-34 victory over then-No. 3 West Virginia. The Cardinals, who have never opened 9-0, are behind Ohio State and Michigan – which meet in Columbus on Nov. 18.
If Louisville can finish the season unbeaten, it will have a good chance to play for the national title. But with four games left in his team’s season, Petrino wasn’t ready to talk about such possibilities with two of the nation’s five unbeaten squads taking the field Thursday.
“All of our focus and preparation is for Rutgers,” he said. “If we think past that, we’re going to be in trouble.”
Petrino, however, bristled at the suggestion that a one-loss team from the SEC or another conference could lobby for a place in the national title game over an unbeaten Big East squad.
“You just wonder what their agenda is, whose vote they are trying to influence,” he said.
Reigning Big East offensive player of the week Brian Brohm is rounding into form for the Cardinals, who are generating nearly 500 yards of offense per game – the second-best mark in Division I-A. Brohm, who missed two games with a right thumb injury, threw for a season-high 354 yards and a touchdown against the Mountaineers.
“It sure looks like Brian Brohm is right back where he was,” Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. “Because he’s such a great player, people just assumed (he’ll be OK). (But) it’s very hard to play any position with a thumb that’s been operated on, but to play quarterback with it is something.
“He really had a plan, they really had a plan of getting him comfortable and I thought he played outstanding against West Virginia.”
Brohm threw for 315 yards and three touchdowns in last season’s 56-5 victory over Rutgers (8-0, 3-0).
“I don’t think (it’s) a motivational factor,” Schiano said of last season’s meeting. “I think they realize how potent Louisville’s offense is. When you watch the game tapes, you cannot afford to make a mistake.”
Louisville limited Rutgers running backs Brian Leonard and Ray Rice to a combined 79 yards on 20 carries last season. The duo is averaging over 180 yards on the ground per game this year.
Rice was held to a season-low 79 yards on 22 carries in the Scarlet Knights’ last game, a 24-13 victory over Connecticut on Oct. 29. Third in the nation with 150.4 rushing yards per game, Rice is tied with West Virginia QB Pat White for the Big East lead with 13 rushing touchdowns.
“It’s tough preparing for Leonard and Rice,” Petrino said. “Leonard can do so many different things – run with the ball, catch the ball out of the backfield, lead block. And then Rice is so powerful and quick and has a combination that a lot of people don’t have, with the power and then the ability to go the distance.
“It’s a difficult challenge for us, but we’re looking forward to it. Our defense is excited to get ready for the game.”
One strategy Louisville may employ is to stack the line of scrimmage against Leonard and Rice and force Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel to throw.
Teel has six touchdowns and eight interceptions this season, and went 12-for-24 for 91 yards and two interceptions in last year’s loss to Louisville.
“Well, Mike is a very capable quarterback,” Petrino said. “He’s got a very good arm, he’s got a lot of experience under his belt now. We played him a year ago, and he hadn’t had as much experience, didn’t play a lot.”
This is the first time a ranked Scarlet Knights team will meet a ranked opponent.
Louisville hasn’t played at Rutgers since 1984.
by: Anthony White – theSpread.com – Email Us
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