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Thursday Afternoon Five: Why Louisville Wins

5. It's friggin' Rutgers

This alone supercedes any other possible predictions and/or analysis regarding tonight's game.

The Scarlet Knights defeated Princeton 6-4 in the first college football game ever played in 1869.

And that's about it.

Princeton bounced back and blanked them 8-0 nine days later and sent the program into a 14 decade death spiral.

This is the first time in school history that Rutgers will partake in a game in which both teams are ranked. If they win it will be their first victory over a ranked opponent since they knocked off Penn State in 1988. They have defeated ranked opponents just five times in their history, and are 0-6 all-time at home against teams ranked in the top 10.

Lat year's loss to Arizona State in the Insight Bowl was just Rutgers' second appearance in a bowl game ever, and their first postseason appearance outside the state of New Jersey.

We could go on, but we assume you get what we're going for here.

4. Rutgers' defense hasn't been challenged

The stats are amazing, but so would ours if we played one-on-one everyday against the three kids under the age of six that live behind us.

The Scarlet Knight defense is holding opponents to just over 9 points a game, and no one has scored more than 20. Take a closer look though and note that Rutgers' most impressive wins came over a Navy team whose star quarterback was injured very early in the game, a South Florida team whose offense is over reliant on one player, and a Pitt team who proved last week that they're offense isn't as good as it looked against Central Florida. Playing Howard is also sure to boost anyone's stats.

The Louisville D had similar stats coming into last Thursday's game against West Virginia and didn't fare too well. Not saying that Louisville or Rutgers have bad defenses, just saying that it's impossible to predict how an untested defense will perform against a top-five offense.

3. No passing game

We said some nice things about Mike Teel in our last post, but we weren't being sincere. The truth is anyone who has started 11 games and has a touchdown to interception ratio of 8:18 is doing something wrong.

Rutgers' passing offense is 114th among the 119 Division I-A schools, producing just 128.1 yards a game, and Teel ranks 83rd passing efficiency, averaging just 127 yards through the air a game. If that wasn't bad enough, Teel was only 12-for-24 for 91 yards and two interceptions in the 56-5 loss at Louisville last year, a game that certainly must be in the back of his mind as he prepares to take the field in front of a packed house at Rutgers Stadium tonight.

But not all the blame can be put on Mike Teel. The Rutgers receiving corps is very young, and this has resulted in over a dozen dropped passes and several instances of players running the wrong routes. In fact the only two reliable receivers Teel has had to throw to all year have been All-Conference fullback Brian Leonard (26 catches, 219 yards), and tight end Clark Harris (19 catches, 247 yards) who is one of the top NFL prospects in the nation at his position.

Rutgers can't win without at least a whiff of a passing game.

2. Ray Rice's ankle

Rice sprained his ankle in the Scarlet Knights' last game against Uconn on Oct. 29, but had the bye week to rest and says he's ready to go tonight.

"I`m going to do whatever I`m asked to do," Rice said. "I`m good to go."

Greg Schiano is little less optimistic.

"(He's) probably not (100 percent) because he didn`t do much last week, but I think he`ll be fine," the Knights coach told the media.

The nation's third leading rusher returned to practice for the first time on Sunday and by all reports is moving just fine. Still, the injury warrants attention because if Rice is anything less than superb tonight, Rutgers is doomed.

1. Brian Brohm is back

It was clear from the first play from scrimmage seven days ago that the zip was back. Brohm's laser over the middle to Harry Douglass was a sign of things to come as the junior torched the West Virginia secondary for 354 yards and led Louisville to the biggest win in school history.

Brohm said this week that the thumb is completely pain free for the first time since the first half of the Miami game.

We proved to be quite prophetic (and good at pointing out the obvious) in harping on Brohm's ability to produce on the biggest of stages in the days leading up to last Thursday's Big East showdown. And as he said just moments after the West Virginia game, Rutgers is now the biggest game in Louisville football history. Brian is focused, prepared, and most importantly, healthy. A monster game tonight should get people talking more than they already were.