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Big East Football Pick
This game was set to be the biggest Big East game of the year. Now, we have two teams that don't look like they really want to win the Big East. Louisville started the season 9-0, but has lost two straight games, the most recent one coming at home to a 4-6 Connecticut team. Rutgers looked primed to win the conference after winning at Cincinnati two weeks ago, but faltered at Pittsburgh and had no answers in a 27-6 loss. The Scarlet Knights can still clinch the Big East with a win, but if that doesn't happen, Syracuse and Cincinnati can enter a four-way share of the title with all being 5-2 in conference play. With the Rutgers loss, the Big East now has zero teams in the Top 25 of the BCS rankings.
Looking to this game, Rutgers is slight 3-point favorites in most places only because they are at home. The Cardinals haven't had the easiest time on the road this year, highlighted by a 19-point loss to Syracuse. However, in this meeting the road school has won two of the last three games while the favorite has covered five straight games. Louisville took last year's defensive battle 16-14 as Rutgers QB Gary Nova tossed three interceptions. Another low-scoring game should be expected considering Rutgers aren't great on offense and their defense has destroyed most Big East opponents this year, excluding Pittsburgh. Outside of that game, the Scarlet Knights allowed just 44 points in five games. That's less than 10 points per game.
Offensively, it isn't as pretty. Gary Nova picked up a shoulder strain against Pittsburgh, yet was able to finish the game out completing 18-of-37 passes for 157 yards and a TD and one pick. Those numbers are right in line with his season totals as he averages 207 passing yards per game. On top of that, he has thrown an interception in five straight games which accounts for more than two INTs per game in that period. In the ground game, 1,000-yard rusher Jawan Jamison is dealing with a bum ankle and hasn't been able to do much the past two weeks (13 carries for 51 yards). Replacement Savon Huggins did just fine against Cincinnati with 179 yards, but only managed 18 yards on eight carries against the Panthers. If they score it will likely be through wide receivers Brandon Coleman and Mark Harrison who have 14 TDs between them. Rutgers only has six rushing TDs as a team this season.
Louisville has actually been solid on offense this year scoring over 30 points per game. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case against Connecticut this past weekend as they only scored 10 points in regulation, all of them coming in the fourth quarter. Teddy Bridgewater has been at the head of it all in his second season. He has 3,189 yards to go with 23 TDs and only six INTs. He has thrown for more than 320 yards in four straight games. Bridgewater fractured his non-throwing wrist in the loss to UConn, but has already said he will be ready to go for Rutgers. WR DeVante Parker has turned into Bridgewater's most reliable target as he has eight TDs in his last seven games. The Cardinals running game has been stout as well, but Senorise Perry tore his ACL against Syracuse which put Jeremy Wright in the spotlight these last two weeks. He has come through for 26 carries and only 72 yards. If they want to beat Rutgers, they'll need to move the ball on the ground, much like Pittsburgh did last weekend.
Louisville is 6-1 ATS in their last seven games following a straight up loss, but only 1-4 ATS in their last five road games. Rutgers is 4-1 ATS in their last five Thursday games and 7-2 ATS in their last nine games overall. The home team has covered in five of their last seven meetings while the over is 5-1 in the last six games between these schools. On the other side, the under is 5-1 in the Scarlet Knights last six home games.
Neither of these teams showed up last week. It happens. But you don't get to be 9-2, in any conference, without having a good football team. This should be a good close game. Louisville has had an easier time finding the end zone but opponents have also been able to find the end zone on Louisville. This shows up in their yards per points number with a 13.4 on offense and a 14.1 on defense. That defensive number ranks 72nd in the nation. Rutgers has had a little more trouble putting points on the board but has done a fantastic job defensively. Again, this shows up in their yards per point numbers with a 14.9 offensively and a 23.1 defensively. Their defensive number ranks 3rd in the nation behind only Alabama and Notre Dame.
Now, just because their yards per point number ranks 3rd in the nation, doesn't mean their defense is as good as Notre Dames and Alabama's. It's all relative. We have to consider their strength of schedule. But those numbers mean something in this game as these two teams have played a schedule that has been almost dead even in strength. We'll take a defense like Rutgers every time. Our model agrees, calling for a 21-14 Rutgers win when using season to date stats and a 22-17 win using only the last 5 games.
This line has moved to -3 from an opener of -2.5. We'd obviously prefer to lay less than the field goal, so watch the board. But only one way for us to go here. Rutgers -3
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