Week Nine Big East Feature Game
Cincinnati Bearcats (5-1, 3-0) vs. #14 Louisville Cardinals (7-0, 2-0)
Friday, October 26 • 8 PM ET • ESPN2
Papa John’s Cardinals Stadium • Louisville, Kentucky
Cincinnati travels 100 miles southwest along Interstate 71 to Louisville for the 52nd Battle for the Keg of Nails. The rivalry spans 83 years and three conferences (Missouri Valley, Conference USA, and Big East), and the winner’s prize is one of the more unique trophies in college athletics: a replica of a keg used to ship nails. It’s adorned with both schools’ logos and the scores of the previous games.
Cincinnati has won four straight against Louisville and leads the all-time series 29-21-1. What’s more, the Bearcats are 13-9-1 in Louisville including the last two at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
The Bearcats suffered their first loss Saturday, 29-23 at Toledo, falling from both the ranks of the undefeated and the Top 25. Quarterback Munchie Legaux completed just 15 of 36 passes for 227 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones was the 2011 Big East Coach of the Year. He is in his third season with Cincinnati. Previously he coached at Central Michigan where he won MAC championships in 2007 and 2009. The Bearcats were Big East co-champions last year. Jones’ career record is 46-25.
The Bearcats will play without the services of defensive lineman Walter Stewart, who had started 40 straight games before injury sidelined him against Toledo. Stewart is the Big East’s active leader in sacks (17.5).
Louisville remains one of 11 undefeated teams after a come-from-behind 27-25 win at home over South Florida last Saturday. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater hit Eli Rogers with an 11-yard touchdown pass with 1:35 remaining in the game to seal the vitory.
More than half of the Cardinals’ 2012 roster are freshmen and sophomores. Louisville has 41 freshmen (25 true freshman and 16 redshirts), 31 sophomores, 28 juniors and only 12 seniors. Against USF, Hakeem Smith made the 32nd-straight start of his career. Other veteran starters include Teddy Bridgewater (17), Mario Benavides (17), Alex Kupper (20) and Jake Smith (20).
Bridgewater is off to a record start in 2012. Through seven starts, he has completed 73.4 percenta of his passes for 1,694 yards and 11 touchdowns. Bridgewater raised his record to 12-5 as a starter in the win over USF, throwing for 256 yards and rushing for a 74 yards.
Charlie Strong is in his third season at Louisville and has a 21-12 career record. He is 0-2 against the Bearcats as a head coach but was defensive coordinator at Florida in 2010 when the #5 Gators beat the #3 Bearcats 51-24 in the Sugar Bowl. Strong also has been on staffs at South Carolina, Note Dame
Line: Louisville -4
Pick: Louisville 27-24
Big East Power Rankings:
1. Rutgers (7-0, 4-0) #18
2. Louisville (7-0, 2-0) #16
3. Cincinnati (5-1, 1-0)
4. Syracuse (3-4, 2-1)
5. Temple (3-3, 2-1)
6. Pitt (3-4, 0-3)
7. USF (2-5, 0-3)
8. UConn (3-5, 0-3)
Other Big East Week Nine games:
Temple at Pitt (-7)
Kent State at Rutgers (-13)
Syracuse at USF (-5)
Big East Week Eight Recap
UConn 10 at Syracuse 40
USF 25 at Louisville 27
Cincinnati 23 at Toledo 29
Pitt 20 at Buffalo 6
Conference Players of Week Eight:
Offensive: Gary Nova, QB, Rutgers
Defensive: Lorenzo Mauldin, DE, Louisville
Special Teams: Ross Krautman, K, Syracuse
Pete Sonski is a contributor to College Football Zealots. Follow him on Twitter @29sonski and check out his work at Big East Coast Bias. and his Three Point Stance show every Tuesday at 9 PM on Blog Talk Radio.