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Louisville Cardinals at Cincinnati Bearcats Preview Thread
The college football season is nearing its end and although week 14 had plenty of great rivalry games, there is still one more to be played. On Thursday the Louisville Cardinals and the Cincinnati Bearcats will go to battle with the winner receiving the Keg of Nails rivalry trophy. This could be the last game for the rivalry as the Cardinals are slated to join the ACC Conference in 2014, making this an extra special game.
Louisville Cardinals at Cincinnati Bearcats Preview
The college football odds will reflect just how close this game could be. Both teams are loaded with talent and will be ready to win this rivalry for perhaps the final time. Though Cincinnati owns the all-time series lead at 30-22-1, U of L holds the Keg of Nails after last season’s 34-31 overtime thriller. While Tedy Bridgewater gets all the press as the quarterback of the Cardinals, the Bearcats have a very good signal caller on their side of the field. READ MORE OF THE GAME PREVIEW HERE
Check back all week as this thread will be updated on a regular basis with information on this game and a free pick by gameday!
The Cincinnati Bearcats and the Louisville Cardinals face off on Thursday in the Keg of Nails College Football rivalry game.
The Cincinnati Bearcats quietly are 9-2 this season and they have a chance to finish the season off in a big way knocking off their rivals Louisville in this one. Both of the Bearcats losses have been upsets losing to Illinois in week two and then to an awful South Florida team. Brendan Kay has completed 70.3 percent of his passes with 22 touchdown passes and nine interceptions and he has also run for four touchdowns. Hosey Williams is averaging 5.9 yards per carry rushing the football with four touchdowns and Ed Abernathy is averaging 3.8 yards per carry as the Bearcats have options in the running game. Shaq Washington has 74 receptions to lead UC while Anthony McClung has 61 catches and five touchdowns. Greg Blair has 78 tackles to lead the Cincinnati defense, Nick Temple has 64 tackles, and Silverberry Mouhon has 8.5 sacks. The Cincinnati offense is averaging 34.2 points and 487.3 yards per game while defensively they are allowing 18.5 points and 3-2.4 yards per game. The Bearcats are going to a bowl but they don’t need much motivation when it comes to playing Louisville.
The Louisville Cardinals have just one loss this season but that is enough to keep them out of a BCS Bowl game this season. Louisville loss to UCF all but ruined their year as they were hoping to possibly back into the BCS Championship Game. Teddy Bridgewater has completed 71 percent of his passes for 25 touchdowns and three interceptions and he should be one of the top overall players taken in the NFL draft. Dominique Brown leads Louisville in rushing averaging 5.5 yards per carry with seven touchdowns and Senorise Perry is averaging 4.6 yards per carry with six touchdowns. Damian Copeland has 49 catches and four touchdowns while DeVante Parker has 37 catches and nine touchdowns and Eli Rogers has 37 catches and four touchdowns. Preston Brown leads the Louisville defense with 83 tackles and 3.5 sacks, James Burgess has 62 tackles, and Marcus Smith has 12.5 sacks. Louisville just hasn’t been the same team since taking the loss but they continue to win games.
Cincinnati is 4-1 against the spread in their last five conference games, 4-1 against the spread following a win, and 9-4 against the spread in their last 13 home games. Louisville is 1-4 against the spread following a bye week, 0-4 against the spread against a team with a winning record, and 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games. The road team has covered the spread in seven of the last eight meetings of these two and the favorite has covered the point spread in 11 of the last 15 meetings.
University of Louisville fans are going to miss playing Cincinnati in football.
The rivalry between the UofL and UC football programs began in 1929 with the Bearcats winning the first 12 games. Those losses, and three of them during the Steve Kragthorpe years, are largely why Cincinnati owns a 30-21-1 edge in the series.
Cincinnati has almost always been competitive, drawing from a fertile football recruiting base in Ohio. Any win over the Bearcats is a good one, whether it was UofL beating them 70-7 in 2004 or by three, 34-31, in overtime last year. Those wins were always special.
A strong rivalry between schools with similar backgrounds and common challenges, with a relationship that predates their associations with the Missouri Valley, the Metro, Conference USA, and the Big East and all those challenges for over five decades. Their football fortunes have sagged and soared over the years but the times were always meaningful when they got together.
Within a driving distance of less than two hours, the trip to Cincinnati is an easy one and an attractive destination, the Queen City offers numerous diversions. Many a Cardinal fan has made the trip up I-71, appreciating everything the city has to offer before and after games. Great restaurants, exceptional hotels, and scenic attractions, just a nice road trip.
What I like most about the rivalry is the UofL and UC partisans have always respected each other, with no hint of the animosity that makes other rivalries so ugly and contentious. The rivalry between UofL and Kentucky is so bitter that one dreads the showdowns simply because of all the animosity between the fans and the fear of losing that accompanies the meetings.
Charlie Strong wants to continue the rivalry, as does UC Coach Tommy Tuberville but football scheduling is complex and it could be years before they get together again, with UofL heading off to the Atlantic Coast Conference and UC remaining in the American Athletic Conference.
It’s only fitting that there is so much on the line when Louisville and Cincinnati square off Thursday night, each team having experienced only one loss this season and with major bowl aspirations on the line.
A game both teams have looked forward to all season long, no shortage of respect, no overlooking anybody, a game that will hopefully bring out the best in both teams, a game that could be remembered for a long time to come.
A bittersweet ending for a rivalry that has meant much to both programs.
The chances may seem slim, but Cincinnati’s football team still could reach a BCS bowl.
Cincinnati is 27th in the latest BCS standings, and the Bearcats (9-2, 6-1 American Athletic Conference) could reach a BCS bowl if they beat Louisville (10-1, 6-1 AAC) on Thursday night. But that’s only if Central Florida (9-1, 7-0 AAC) loses Saturday at SMU (5-6, 4-3 AAC), and then Cincinnati finishes ahead of Central Florida in the final BCS standings.
BCS expert Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com said Monday that, even if Cincinnati wins and Central Florida loses, it now appears the Bearcats would finish behind Central Florida in the BCS standings. While Cincinnati and Central Florida would be American co-champs, Central Florida currently is 11 spots ahead of UC at No. 16 in the tie-breaking BCS race. It may be difficult for Cincinnati to jump that many places in one week.
“I think Cincinnati would have a chance, but there’s just no way to say definitely that it would happen or definitely that it won’t,” Palm said. “There’s too big a gap in between. It would depend so much on what other teams do.”
Palm last week projected Cincinnati would surpass Central Florida via the aforementioned scenario, but that was before this past weekend’s games. Forecasters had projected the Bearcats between 23rd and 25th in the BCS standings, but instead they landed 27th.
Regardless, Cincinnati first would have to upset 3 ½-point favorite Louisville. The Cardinals are No. 16 in the USA Today coaches poll and No. 19 in the Associated Press media poll. Cincinnati is No. 23 in the USA Today poll and No. 26 in the AP voting.
“We can’t control our destiny,” UC coach Tommy Tuberville said. “The only thing we can do is control what happens in this one game.”
U of L won last year’s game, 34-31, in overtime at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
“We’ve all been thinking about this game since last year, the overtime loss,” Cincinnati senior guard Austen Bujnoch said. “When we found out we played them in the last game of the season this year, we all marked it on our calendar. This is the biggest game for us.”
In an important American Athletic Conference matchup, the 19th-ranked Louisville Cardinals will visit the Cincinnati Bearcats at Nippert Stadium on Thursday night.
Any chance at returning to a BCS bowl is gone for Louisville, but the Cardinals still have a shot at earning a share of the AAC title. To do so they will need to not only beat Cincinnati, but UCF would have to lose to SMU on Saturday. Even if that does not come to pass the Cardinals have still enjoyed a strong campaign, with a 10-1 overall record entering Thursday's contest. A win on Thursday would give the Cardinals back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in program history.
"I don't think it's deflating because you're looking at a team right now who's won 10 games, " Louisville head coach Charlie Strong said. "You're sitting there 10-1, so we don't get to the BCS. We're going to get to another bowl game, but you can't take away what we've already accomplished with 10 wins."
While the Cardinals have been on the national radar all season, the Bearcats have quietly turned in a stellar campaign themselves. Entering play on Thursday, Cincinnati has a 9-2 overall record and like Louisville, is 6-1 in- conference, and a win and a UCF loss away from a share of the AAC title. Head coach Tommy Tuberville has bigger plans for his program though.
"Right now there are probably only 15-18 teams that have a chance to win a national championship. Number one because of national recognition, and number two because of the availability of talent, we want to jump into that market," Tuberville, who is in his first year at Cincinnati said. "You do that by recruiting and winning games, but you also need to be noticed while doing it. When you get out on the big stage, and to us, Thursday is a big stage, you have to perform."
Thursday's contest has even more on the line for these teams than implications in the conference title chase. Up for grabs is the Victory Bell Trophy, which is given to the winner of this rivalry game each year. This will be the last time the Victory Bell is awarded for the foreseeable future though, as Louisville moves to the ACC next season. Louisville took home the hardware last season with a 34-31 triumph in overtime. However, Cincinnati owns the all-time series lead by a count of 30-21.
This contest features a matchup of the top two offensive teams in the AAC. Cincinnati actually leads the conference in total offense (487.3 ypg), while Louisville is right behind, picking up 455 yards per game.
Although he has been out of the Heisman conversation for awhile, Teddy Bridgewater has played extremely well for the Cardinals. On the year he has completed 71 percent of his pass attempts, for 3,268 yards and 25 touchdowns, all while being picked off just three times.
Bridgewater's favorite targets have clearly been Damian Copeland (49 receptions, 655 yards, four TDs) and DeVante Parker (37 receptions, 639 yards, nine TDs), who should each be on the short list for all-conference honors. Bridgewater has spread the ball around though, as Eli Rogers (37 receptions, 466 yards, four TDS) and tight end Gerald Christian (24 receptions, 377 yards, four TDs) have also been in the mix.
The Cardinals also have a wealth of talent in the backfield with Dominique Brown and Senorise Perry teaming as a productive tandem. Brown (704 yards, seven TDs) is the team's leading rusher and more of a downhill runner, while Perry (550 yards, six TDs) is a bit more elusive.
Not only are these teams the top two offensive teams in the country, they also fill those spots on defense as well. However it is Louisville that tops the league on the defensive side, allowing only 242.5 yards and 11.4 points per game. Talent abounds on the unit with players like Preston Brown (83 tackles, 9.5 TFL), Marcus Smith (12.5 sacks), Lorenzo Mauldin (9.5 sacks), Terrell Floyd (38 tackles, four INTs) and Calvin Pryor (57 tackles, three INTS) all making their presence felt.
Dueling it out with Bridgewater will be Cincinnati's Brendon Kay, who didn't start the year, but has taken to the role well. Kay has thrown for 2,797 yards and 22 touchdowns on the season, while connecting on 70.3 percent of his pass attempts. Kay has been less effective than Bridgewater in terms of ball security with nine interceptions.
Anthony McClung and Shaq Washington would certainly have something to say about Copeland and Parker's candidacy for all-league honors. McClung has hauled in 61 passes for 811 yards and five touchdowns this season and has had 100-yard efforts in each of the last two games. Washington (74 receptions, 736 yards, TD) has also hit the century mark in the last couple contests, with 10 receptions and 132 yards against Houston. Chris Moore (36 receptions, 5-7 yards, nine TDs), Max Morrison (27 receptions, 418 yards, three TDs) and Mekale McKay (14 receptions, 405 yards, seven TDs) also get in the mix.
The Bearcats also have skill in the backfield with Hosey Williams (575 yards, four TDs), Ralph David Abernathy (433 yards, three TDs) and Tion Green (371 yards, seven TDs) doing most of the heavy lifting.
Even though the Bearcats are second in the league in total defense, they are still quite a ways behind the Cardinals, who are actually second in the nation in total defense. Still Cincinnati is more than capable of holding its own, as it allows only 302.4 yards and 18.5 points per game. The linebacking unit is the key with Greg Blair (78 tackles) and Nick Temple (64 tackles, 11.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks) leading the way, while Silverberry Mouhon (8.5) anchors the pass rush.
The Keg of Nails will be on the line for the final time in the foreseeable future in Thursday night's matchup between No. 19 Louisville and Cincinnati - along with the Bearcats' slim hopes of reaching a BCS bowl.
That might give Cincinnati, which enters as a home underdog, a little more incentive.
Each team can earn a share of the American Athletic Conference title with a win and a UCF loss Saturday at SMU. However, only Cincinnati has a chance at the league's automatic BCS berth because of Louisville's 38-35 home loss to the Knights on Oct. 18.
The Bearcats (9-2, 6-1 ACC), who don't play UCF this season, would need to finish higher than UCF in the final BCS standings.
"Football gets a little bit long and old this time of year. It's kind of a grind for everybody," Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville said. "When your last game really means something - whether it's a chance to go to a different bowl, or the possibility for a chance of a piece of a championship, it makes it a lot more fun."
Meanwhile, Louisville's (10-1, 6-1) lone blemish remains its setback against the Knights, but the Cardinals will likely be heading to a much lesser bowl game.
"I don't think it's deflating (not going to a BCS game), because you're looking at a team right now who's won 10 games," coach Charlie Strong said. "You're sitting there 10-1, so we don't get to the BCS. We're going to get to another bowl game, but you can't take away what we've already accomplished with 10 wins."
Cincinnati owns a 29-22 all-time edge with one tie in a series that first awarded the Keg of Nails trophy to its winner in 1929. However, it's unclear when they'll meet again with Louisville heading to the ACC and no future matchups currently scheduled.
The Cardinals ended a four-game slide in the series with a 34-31 home win last year on a 30-yard field goal from John Wallace as time expired.
Teddy Bridgewater was 24 of 41 for 416 yards, two TDs and an interception. Devante Parker was on the receiving end of both scores, finishing with four catches for 120 yards.
Bridgewater's numbers have been more pedestrian over his last three games as he's thrown for two scores and one interception while being sacked eight times and posting a 127.8 passer rating. He recorded a 191.6 rating with 23 TDs and two interceptions through his first eight contests.
Louisville's offense has gone from averaging 495.3 yards to 347.7 yards in the last three games.
Bridgewater threw for 220 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinals' 24-17 win over Memphis on Nov. 23, potentially his final home game. He's scheduled to graduate in December, and with a chance at being one of the top selections in April's NFL Draft, it's unclear if he'll return for his final year of eligibility.
"I still feel that we have a couple more games on the schedule," Bridgewater said. "Right now, I have my focus on that."
Cincinnati, which has won 16 of its last 18 home games while outscoring teams by an average of 23.4 points, is coming off back-to-back impressive offensive performances, totaling 1,192 yards in wins at Rutgers and Houston. Quarterback Brandon Kay has accounted for seven TDs and threw for 386 yards and two scores in a 24-17 road win over the Cougars on Nov. 23.
Both teams have been far more consistent on the other side of the ball. Louisville ranks second among FBS teams in total defense, limiting teams to 242.5 yards per game, while Cincinnati is eighth, allowing 302.4.