Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Big East Championship Game Preview

Louisville (9-2, 4-2 BE) vs. Rutgers (9-2, 5-1 BE)
High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, NJ
Thursday, November 29th, 7:30 PM on ESPN

Yeah...yeah...we know the Big East doesn't have a championship game, but they have an uncanny ability to schedule games for the last week of the season that directly determine who represents the league in the BCS. This year is no different. Though Syracuse and Cincinnati can still earn a share of the Big East title with wins, the winner of Thursday night's Cardinals vs. Scarlet Knights match-up will earn the league's BCS berth, so we'll treat it like a conference championship game until the Big East steals enough teams from Conference USA to actually have one. 

Brendan's Pick: After watching West Virginia represent the Big East in the BCS last year and then immediately bolt for the Big 12, the league can't feel great about this game. The winner goes on to represent the Big East in the BCS...and then starts packing for the Big Ten or ACC. Granted, neither team moves until 2014, but it's still a "dead man walking" nightmare scenario for the league's front office and TV contract negotiations. 

Like everything else with the Big East this year I have absolutely no fricking idea what's going to happen Thursday night. When their offense is clicking Louisville looks like the best team in the league. When their defense is dominant Rutgers looks like the best team in the league. When they both play like they did last week Georgetown looks like the best team in the league. We'd probably just be better off flipping a coin than trying to predict what these teams will bring to the table Thursday, but for the sake of analysis I think the Rutgers defense is good enough to stop an injured Teddy Bridgewater, in New Jersey, in November. Just don't expect it to be pretty.

The Pick: Rutgers 13, Louisville 9

Jimmy's Pick: Louisville and Rutgers longed for some respect in the polls after strong starts, but disappointing losses have left them both at 9-2 and unranked. While the game will determine who wins  the Big East title (outright or shares), it's hard to get excited about a game where both teams fell to inferior competition the previous week. 

Louisville fought their way to a 9-0 start and #9 BCS ranking before dropping two straight. Things got pretty scary last weekend when it looked like QB Teddy Bridgewater was done for the season. While he's still pretty banged up (broken left wrist and sprained right ankle), he will start this week. His recent injuries will only make the task of putting points on the board much more difficult against the nation's 4th best scoring defense. The Cardinals don't have much of a ground game and, in fact they were limited to 75 total yards on the ground in their last two games (both losses). Rutgers has the best run defense in the conference, but if they have a weakness its in the secondary and that's what Louisville should look to exploit. The Scarlet Knights are only scoring 23 points per game so it's no secret they're a team that relies heavily upon their defense to get the job done. 

Rutgers loss to Pitt last weekend was just ugly as they were held to only 207 yards of total offense and were 5 for 16 on third down. I have a hard time seeing Louisville end the season with three straight losses, but Bridgewater's health is definitely a concern. The Cardinals must be able to connect through the air in order to win this game. It'll be a close, low scoring game, but I think The Ville will get the win. 

The Pick: Louisville 20, Rutgers 17

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