Today is Big East Blue Ribbon preview day. Hurrah!
That means I get to pick one impact conference game of the season. Bet you know which way I am going to go with this one.
Louisville at Rutgers, Thurs., Nov. 29
The Big East office knew what it was doing when it scheduled this game for the final week of the regular season. Both teams go into 2012 as preseason favorites to finish somewhere in the Top 3 of the Big East. Louisville is one of the preseason favorites to win the league; Rutgers should have the best defense in the league.
Given what is returning to both teams, it is easy to see why this game should have a major impact. Louisville has 15 starters returning, including up-and-coming quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. There is depth at running back and receiver; the offensive line should be markedly improved. Defensively, Louisville has one of the best secondaries returning, along with two of its starting linebackers.
As for Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights also have 15 starters returning, including Co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year Khaseem Greene. Eight players return to a defense that ranked No. 1 in the Big East a year ago. That includes a top-notch secondary as well. Offensively, there are a few more question marks at quarterback, running back and offensive line. New coach Kyle Flood is an unknown as well, and those factors have contributed to Rutgers losing some of its early steam as a preseason favorite to win the league.
Still, these two teams should be among the class of the Big East. Their regular-season finale could very well serve as a de facto Big East championship game.