West Virginia at Cincinnati 11-13-09

November 13, 2009

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Cincinnati has endured plenty of uncertainty surrounding its quarterback situation this week, but coach Brian Kelly hopes the offense continues its smooth sailing on the field regardless of who is under center. While Zach Collaros makes his fourth straight start as the fifth-ranked Bearcats chase the first 10-0 start in school history, injured starter Tony Pike is also expected to see action Friday night when their pursuit of a spot in the BCS title game continues against visiting West Virginia. Each quarterback has proved he can effectively run the Bearcats’ spread, no-huddle offense, which ranks third nationally with 482.6 yards per game.

The prolific offense has been the primary reason why Cincinnati remains in the national championship conversation and has a chance for the best start in the program’s history. The 1951 team also began 9-0 but lost its 10th game. The Bearcats also need to keep winning in order to defend their conference title, as they remain tied with Pittsburgh atop the Big East, but they may need to tighten their defense after the unit’s worst performance of the season. UConn scored more points than Cincinnati’s previous three opponents combined, including 21 in the fourth quarter to narrow the deficit. The Huskies ran for 201 yards and four touchdowns. That could be a problem if West Virginia is able to use star running back Noel Devine, one of 16 players nationally who has topped 1,000 yards rushing. Devine injured his ankle in a 17-9 win over Louisville on Saturday, forcing the Mountaineers (7-2, 3-1) to rely on defense to outlast the Cardinals. Quarterback Jarrett Brown suffered a similar injury in the game, but West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said he’s optimistic both players will play this week.

The bigger challenge for the Mountaineers, however, will likely be slowing down a Cincinnati offense which Stewart has called a “juggernaut.” A pair of opponents have already totaled at least 300 yards through the air against West Virginia, which must win this game to maintain any shot at the conference title. “There are probably a lot of people that aren’t going to give us a chance,” Stewart said. “We’ll probably be 20-30 point underdogs.”Stewart said Sunday he expected to be facing Collaros, even commending Kelly on the decision after hearing his comments following the UConn game.

The Mountaineers will have some positive history on their side. They were the last team to win at Nippert Stadium, 28-23 over then-No. 21 Cincinnati on Nov. 17, 2007, when West Virginia was ranked fifth.

The Bearcats have won 11 in a row at home, and they won 26-23 at West Virginia last Nov. 8 even though their offense was held to 260 yards – its lowest total in the last two seasons. This will be a great big east matchup tonight.

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Free Pick Cincinnati -9.5

By Lawrence Tate Associate Freepick1.com Editor


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