UConn Looks to Keep Title Hopes Alive

It's been three calender years since the Huskies played in a game of this importance. In 2007, UConn entered the final Saturday in November with a 5-1 Big East record, and only Rich Rodriguez's West Virginia Mountaineers standing between them and their first ever BCS Bowl berth. Pat White and Noel Devine ran wild that day, and the Huskies came up short in their quest for the crown.

This weekend's game vs Cincinnati is not the same win and in scenario, but UConn must win to stay in the hunt.

Cincinnati poses some match-up problems for the Huskies. While the Bearcats' defense finds itself dead last in the conference in both yards and points allowed, they're actually second in the league vs the run. They allow just 111.7 yards per game on the ground. The Huskies boast the league's best rushing attack, which is racking up 180.3 yards per game. It's no secret that Cincinnati will game plan to slow down Jordan Todman, who leads the Big East in rushing yards (1306), attempts (238), yards per game (145.1) and rushing touchdowns (11). If Cincinnati is able to curtail Todman's production and force Zach Frazer and the Huskies to take to the air, it could put the Huskies in a tough spot.

Frazer has played adequately since returning to the starting line-up three games ago, but the staff hasn't asked him to do much. He's thrown for just 364 yards over the three games (121.3 ypg), and two touchdowns. If the Huskies get into a shootout, Frazer will need to open it up, and the receiving corps, which has been spotty all season, will have to make plays. That's not to say that the Huskies can't or won't find success in the air. It's just that it's not the team's strength. UConn's passing attack comes into this one last in the conference in yards (150.8 ypg), touchdown passes (9) and yards per attempt (5.7). The good news for the Huskies is the Cincinnati pass defense has been abysmal this season. They are allowing a league worst 252.9 yards per game through the air, and have given up a whopping 24 touchdown passes. That's eight more than South Florida, who has allowed the second most. If the UConn offense is going to do some damage in the air, this will be the week to do it. Frazer and the receivers must make the most of the opportunities that arise on Saturday, because as well as the Husky defense played last week, Syracuse's offense does not compare to Cincinnati's. Holding down the the Bearcats, who lead the league in both total offense (434.4 ypg) and points per game (29.8), will not be easy, and the UConn offense will likely need to score more than the 18.6 ppg that they average in Big East play in order to win this one.

The key for the Huskies will be how much they are able to contain Zach Collaros. Collaros went wild vs the Huskies last season, throwing for 480 yards and rushing for 75 more. In nine games this season, his first as the full time starter, he's thrown for a league best 2505 yards (278.3 ypg), as well as the most touchdown passes (24). He also has the league's top touchdown to interception ratio at 3.43:1. He hasn't had nearly as much success running the ball this season as he did last, but he is still a threat to pull it down and run. Traditionally that's been a big problem for the UConn defense.

When the Huskies take the field on Saturday they'll know if they have a chance to seize control of the Big East race. Pitt and West Virginia square off Friday in the annual "Backyard Brawl", and if West Virginia wins, the Huskies will take control of their own destiny. For UConn, the stakes are high, but Cincinnati has plenty to play for as well. They need to win their final two games in order to become bowl eligible. A month ago it didn't look like the Huskies would be in this position, but credit to Randy Edsall and the players for believing in themselves and righting the ship. The Huskies have relished the underdog roll over the past three games, but come into this one as a slight favorite. We'll see if they can keep it rolling for another week, and keep their titles hopes alive.


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