|RB Jeremy Wright had 108 yards on just 11 carries in Louisville's 16-14 win over Rutgers last season. (US Presswire)|
Despite a pair of surprising defeats last week, Louisville and Rutgers can still earn a trip to a BCS bowl game with a victory this week. The winner of Thursday's Scarlet Knights-Cardinals matchup in Piscataway will likely be playing in January, possibly in the Orange Bowl. Here are three keys to the game when Louisville has the ball.
1. How will QB Teddy Bridgewater deal with an injury to his non-throwing hand? The Cardinals' sophomore didn't practice on Monday after breaking his left hand in Saturday's loss vs. Connecticut. Unable to handle snaps under center, Bridgewater will operate out of a shotgun or pistol formation. The injury will place the Cardinals' offense in a difficult predicament. Louisville coach Charlie Strong said on Monday that a large part of its offense is based on the ability to run play-action fakes, which are typically run with Bridgewater under center. In addition, Bridgewater could have trouble handing the ball off especially on runs when he must turn to his right side. Still, Bridgewater is a gamer. The injury could increase his motivation level -- which is usually high to begin with. In spite of the broken hand, Bridgewater still attempted 53 passes and threw for 331 yards against the Huskies. Senior quarterback Will Stein could see some playing time, Strong said.
2. Will a Cardinals running back take the pressure off Bridgewater? The Cardinals running game has been stagnant since Senorise Perry suffered a season-ending knee injury against Syracuse on Nov. 10. In last week's loss, Louisville had an astounding total of 61 negative yards when carrying the ball. If the Scarlet Knights aren't forced to bring S Duron Harmon into the box to stop the run, the task of containing Bridgewater will be easier. Led by LB Khaseem Greene, the Scarlet Knights have one of the top run defenses in FBS.
3. Who will win the one-on-one matchup if Logan Ryan is lined up against DeVante Parker? If Rutgers uses DB Logan Ryan on Louisville's explosive wideout DeVante Parker, it will likely be the most intriguing individual battle of the game. Both players have a good chance of receiving all-league honors when the All-Big East First Team is unveiled. Ryan is a big, physical corner who has exceptional ball skills. Parker has big play capabilities and will look to stretch the field vertically. Parker is averaging 19.5 yards per catch and has eight touchdowns. In spite of a 16-14 loss to Louisville in 2011, the Scarlet Knights held the Cardinals to just 122 yards through the air.
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