- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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When the Big East released its schedule back in March, it purposely put Louisville against Rutgers on Thursday night prime time to close out the regular season.
Since the league has no title game, it has referred to its final week of competition as "championship week." The hope was the league title would be decided between the projected top two teams in the league.
Mission (nearly) accomplished.
No. 18 Rutgers (9-1, 5-0) and No. 20 Louisville (9-1, 4-1) are the last teams standing in the hunt for the automatic berth into the BCS. The Scarlet Knights can clinch at least a share of their first-ever Big East title with a win over Pitt on Saturday; Louisville must beat UConn in order to keep its BCS hopes alive.
Even if Rutgers loses, the Scarlet Knights would still get the BCS berth with a win over Louisville. If Rutgers wins and Louisville loses, the Scarlet Knights would clinch the BCS berth on Saturday.
But the most likely scenario has them fighting for the league's BCS berth next week. If that is the case, it would be the third straight season the BCS berth comes down to the final week of the season.
There are two interesting storylines to follow this week as both teams try to win. First, Rutgers had an opportunity last season to clinch at least a share of its first-ever Big East title in its final game of the season at UConn. The Scarlet Knights were the favorites on paper, but completely fell apart from the start and lost 40-22.
How will this team handle a similar situation this time around? Flood says his players have used what happened in that loss as motivation this season. And he has addressed the chance to make history this week.
"Any time you have an opportunity as program to do something that’s never been done in the history of your program, I think that’s a very special opportunity and you had better take advantage of those opportunities when you get them," Flood said. "This is a very important game for us. It’s a Big East championship game and we’re going to approach it like that."
Louisville has had to live with its last game for two weeks, a terrible loss to Syracuse that ruined its chances of an unbeaten season. Coach Charlie Strong says he has addressed the final two weeks of the season with his players, and senses they are refocused for the games ahead.
"What I tried to tell your players is we’re 9-1 at the end of the day so that Syracuse game is not going to define our season for us," Strong said. "We're still in control of our own destiny. We have to make sure we don’t lose our confidence and continue to focus and execute."
If they do, next Thursday night will be for all the BCS marbles.