Perception could be on a collision course with reality for No. 8 Louisville. As the national media and general public continue to pooh-pooh the Cardinals’ schedule, laying the theoretical groundwork for why quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Co. won’t compete for a national championship, up steps American Athletic Conference rival Rutgers.
To most, it’s seen as little more than speed bump on the Cards’ sprint to an unbeaten regular season, mere fodder for Louisville to bolster its mind-boggling statistics. In short, the Scarlet Knights are not considered to be legit competition.
Should that change, though, when the two squads kick off Week 7 of the college football season at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium Thursday night (ESPN, 7:30), it really shouldn’t be a surprise.
Not only do the Knights enter the contest 4-1, their only setback coming in a 52-51, season-opening overtime loss at unbeaten Fresno State, they battled Louisville last season down to the wire before falling 20-17 in Piscataway, N.J.
Bridgewater’s legend, not to mention his current Heisman candidacy, got a major boost that night as he came off the bench to rally the troops from a 14-3 deficit while nursing a broken wrist and sore ankle.
This time around, Rutgers is missing a key cog. Starting running back Paul James, the country’s leading ground gainer before suffering a leg injury in Week 4, is out. But the Knights may have discovered a rising star in his replacement as freshman Justin Goodwin spearheaded a 55-52 OT win at Southern Methodist last week with 149 yards and two TDs rushing.
Bridgewater’s counterpart at QB is no slouch, either. Junior Gary Nova has a TD-to-INT ratio of 13-4, including 9-1 in second halves.
Rutgers is seeking its third win against a top-10 team. It beat No. 3 Louisville in 2006.