Athlon Debates Big East Favorite: Louisville or Rutgers?

Posted on Sep 26 2012 - 12:37pm by Brent Lepping

 

Athlon assembled a little side panel of writers and various website contributors and asked what seems to be the biggest pressing question right now for those involved in the Big East: who’s better, Rutgers or Louisville? Of course both teams remain undefeated at 4-0 and are the only teams from the Big East included in the latest AP Top-25 poll. Their paths seemed destined to collide in what could be a monumental season finale on November 29th in Piscataway. Rutgers has some quality road wins after going down to Tampa and dispatching South Florida and then defeating Arkansas in Fayetteville this past Saturday. Louisville has looked inconsistent over their last two outings, but remain the team to beat in the conference. Without question, it appears to be a two-team race for the Big East’s BCS bowl bid. Here’s a quick sampling of what some of the writers said and you can read the entire piece here.

David Fox (@DavidFox615): 
Rutgers had two major questions coming into the season, at least for its on-the-field personnel: quarterback play and its offensive line. After four games, the Scarlet Knights have proven those two positions are no longer glaring weakness. Gary Nova has been a third-down whiz and he’s proven he can win on the road. Sophomore Kaleb Johnson has locked down the left tackle spot, and sophomore Betim Bujari has secured the problematic center spot. That’s led to four 100-yard games for Jawan Jamison and only two sacks allowed in four games. Even without Greg Schiano, the defense remains solid. I’m a little suspicious of Louisville as well. Teddy Bridgewater is the best offensive player in the league, but I’m concerned about the Cardinals’ defense. It’s been un-Charlie Strong like in the last two games. Ranking 91st in pass efficiency defense? Four sacks all season? That’s might be tough to overcome for a Big East title.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall): 
I have been talking up the Scarlet Knights all summer long as the top Big East contender to Louisville. Rutgers had the best defense in the league last year and has shown vast improvement at quarterback and on offense as a whole. A balanced offense offense, stellar group of talented freshman (possibly the best in school history) and an easy early schedule makes the Knights a dangerous team. This squad could easily begin the season 9-0 before a nasty final three games will determine the Big East’s BCS bowl bid: at Cincinnati, at Pitt and Louisville at home. It appears the league will crown a champ when the Cardinals visit Piscataway on the final Thursday night of the season. It this is how the league plays out, I will take the Knights to win on November 29 and clinch the program’s first BCS bowl appearance.

Mark Ross: 
For now, I’ll take Louisville mainly because of the emergence of Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The sophomore signal caller has to be considered the early frontrunner for Big East Offensive Player of the Year as he’s entered himself into the Heisman Trophy discussion in some circles. Bridgewater has been efficient (23rd in the nation in passing efficiency) and productive (43rd in total offense) in leading the Cardinals to a 4-0 start and Top 20 national ranking. Both teams have been impressive on defense so far, but I give Louisville the edge over Rutgers on offense because of Bridgewater. The good news is, the Cardinals and Scarlet Knights will get the chance to size one another up on the field. The bad news is that everyone has to wait until the final game of the regular season as that’s when Louisville makes the trip to Piscataway, N.J., for a game that could likely decide both the Big East conference race and a BCS bid.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): 
I’ll stick with preseason favorite Louisville for now, although Rutgers has the more impressive September resume with wins at USF and Arkansas. We knew that Khaseem Greene and the Scarlet Knights would play solid defense, but new coach Kyle Flood has also found an answer at quarterback in Gary Nova. The sophomore signal caller had a stellar 397-yard, five-touchdown performance versus the Razorbacks last week, and his play combined with runner Jawan Jamison (four 100-yard games) has Rutgers fans thinking about a league title. Meanwhile, Louisville is also undefeated but has looked sluggish in doing it. I’ll give the Cards a pass on almost blowing a 36-7 halftime lead against North Carolina, but the close decision at FIU last week was too close for Cardinal comfort. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and a solid backfield tandem should give the UL offense enough punch, but Charlie Strong and staff must repair a talented but inconsistent defense to win the conference. The Cardinals have too much talent on the defensive unit to be giving up so many yards and third-down conversions. I see Louisville getting by Southern Miss this week, and then getting the defense repaired during the bye before league play begins. The good news for the Big East is that it has two ranked schools that could both win double-digit games this season.

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