Jay Henry against UConn

Connecticut’s Terry Caulley (44) dives for a first down as West Virginia’s Jay Henry (right) brings him down in the third quarter of the Connecticut-West Virginia football game in East Hartford, Conn., last Friday.

Coach Rich Rodriguez will tell you that he hopes West Virginia’s game at Louisville on Thursday night isn’t high-scoring.

“If it is, it’s certainly not going to bode well for us,” he said Monday on the Big East coaches’ weekly media teleconference.

“I think (the Cardinals) are built more toward throwing the football with Brian Brohm and the skill guys at wide receiver positions than we are at this point.

“So if we’re giving up a lot of points and letting them go up and down the field, it’s going to be tough, particularly in that environment.”

The No. 3-ranked Mountaineers are averaging 40.9 points per game to the No. 5 Cardinals’ 38.7. But U of L is averaging slightly more yards in total offense than WVU, 496.1 to 459.3.

The two Big East powers have identical 7-0 records, including 2-0 in the conference, going into this much-ballyhooed matchup.

Interestingly, the oddsmakers’ opening line in Las Vegas listed Louisville as a 2.5-point favorite over WVU. But by mid-afternoon, that had dropped to 1.5 in legal betting circles.

Rodriguez knows that it’s going to be a truly tough task for the Mountaineers in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium before a sellout crowd of 42,000 and a nation-wide ESPN audience.

But he said, “I think our guys may relish being the underdog. We’ve always played very well as the so-called underdog.

“Whether you’re underdog or favorite, going to Louisville in that environment and that setting is going to be a big challenge. And we know that we’ve got to play our best game of the year to win.”

Rodriguez agreed with U of L head coach Bobby Petrino that USC’s upset loss to Oregon State won’t have any implications on this battle of unbeatens, though it allowed both teams to advance one spot in the polls.

“The BCS thing usually works out in the end,” he said. “There was a lot of hype before the season started.

“It’s hard to go undefeated. But both schools have done their part (in reaching this showdown without a loss).”

He does think playing such a significant contest on Thursday night is great for national exposure of the Big East and the two teams.

“Everybody has a chance to see it, whether a fan or a high school player,” Rodriguez reasoned. “It’s a national showcase and the fact both teams are undefeated adds to that.”

Rodriguez said his team’s preparations went well last week and also on Sunday. It will taper off the remaining two days.

“We’re playing a great team at their place,” he acknowledged. “They’ve got a lot of great players, and their coaches do a great job of putting them into positions to make plays.

“Our guys understand that this is going to be a tough environment. It’s very talented team, and we have to play really well to have a chance.”

Recommended for you