Kickoff: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Spread: Rutgers by 3
Watchability: Winner goes to a BCS bowl. 'Nuff said.
Shining stars: Louisville -- QB Teddy Bridgewater. As is the case in pretty much any game Bridgewater plays in, he will be the best player on the field. And Thursday night is Bridgewater's chance to forever etch his name in Cardinals lore. The sophomore will take the field with a fractured left (non-throwing) wrist. He won't take any snaps from under center and handoffs will be a little shaky, but coach Charlie Strong said Monday that he will go. Rutgers -- LB Khaseem Greene. And the man who will be making life miserable for Bridgewater: defensive star Greene. The leading tackler in the Big East, Greene is poised to repeat as Big East defensive player of the year. He leads the league in tackles and Rutgers in tackles for loss (10) and sacks (5). His mission will be to make life hell for Bridgewater and the Louisville running backs, and his effectiveness in this task will be pivotal in determining who wins.
Who could steal the show: Louisville -- DE Lorenzo Mauldin. Speaking of people who enjoy destroying opponent's backfields, Mauldin should be fully healthy Thursday night, coming off a sprained knee (he played Saturday against UConn). Mauldin appeared ready to explode prior to his injury in late October, having just come off being named conference defensive player of the week. If the Louisville defense as a unit can keep Rutgers running back Jawan Jamison at bay, Mauldin should have the opportunity to tee off on banged up quarterback Gary Nova. Rutgers -- RB Jamison. The aforementioned "if" is a big if. The Cardinals' defense has not had much success containing opposing backs. The Cards have allowed an opposing rusher to go over 100 yards six times -- and 90-plus two other times -- while Jamison has reached the 100-yard mark six times.
You going? Ranking the road trip: The Big East schedule-makers had to have considered that this game -- the final one for both teams -- would serve as a de facto Big East title game. And it worked. There hasn't been a bigger game in the Big East this year. If you have the means, go.
Magic number for Louisville: 3. This will only be coach Charlie Strong's third game against a ranked opponent -- even if you count Rutgers a ranked opponent (the Scarlet Knights are 25th in the coaches poll). The previous two came at No. 25 Oregon State in 2010 (L, 35-28) and vs. No. 24 West Virginia in 2011 (W, 38-35).
Magic number for Rutgers: 1. The Scarlet Knights are one win away from their first trip to a BCS bowl and an outright Big East Championship -- the first in school history.
The game comes down to: Bridgewater's effectiveness. If Teddy Bridgewater is Teddy Bridgewater, the Cards could hold a slight advantage. If he's just a shell of his former self -- or, worse, Louisville has to look to backup Will Stein -- Rutgers should hold a huge advantage. The one caveat, of course, is how effective the Rutgers offense can be. Regardless, the Cardinals need Bridgewater. He is undoubtedly the most important player for either team.
Prediction: Rutgers 27, Louisville 25
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis on the Big East, follow bloggers Evan Hilbert and Matt Rybaltowski @CBSBigEast.