The Bearcats lost their shot at a BCS berth when West Virginia defeated USF Thursday night. That had to be heartbreaking for Cincinnati. But this remains a big game for both programs. If you thought last week's game against Rutgers was physical, it's possible you haven seen anything yet.
UCONN (5-6, 3-3) vs. CINCINNATI (8-3, 3-2)
Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011, Noon
ESPN (Dave Pasch, Chris Spiuelman); WTIC 1080/UConn Radio Network (Joe D'Ambrosio, Wayne Norman)
Nippert Stadium (40,000), Cincinnati
THREE KEYS FOR UCONN:
DON'T LET PEAD GO CRAZY
Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead may be the most overlooked offensive standout in the nation. The Bearcats know what he can do and Big East opponents have a hard time stopping the junior from Columbus, Ohio. Last week, in a 30-13 win at Syracuse, Pead rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. He also had nine receptions for 112 yards and a TD. That's a weapon. Pead is the third Cincinnati player all-time to go over 3,000 yards in career rushing. He leads the Big East in scoring (11 rushing, 3 receiving). "He's very explosive and can cut on a dime," UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said.
These are the top two teams against the run in the Big East. UConn leads in rushing defense, giving up just 84.2 yards per game. Cincinnati is second at 99.5. They are also the bottom two teams against the pass in the Big East. Both teams are using the dual-threat offense with two quarterbacks alternating their packages. UConn's Lyle McCombs leads the Big East in rushing and Pead is second. UConn's defense has come alive in recent weeks, especially with a strong pass rush. All those elements come into play and the team with best defensive effort should win.
UConn must tune out the environment at Nippert Stadium – and that won't be easy. Nippert is one of the classic, traditional settings in college football. The Bearcats will honor a 21-member senior class in the pregame ceremony and Cincinnati can still claim a share of the Big East championship with a victory. And it has been 71 days since the Bearcats played at Nippert. They played two games at Paul Brown Stadium, home of the NFL Bengals, and they are fired up about returning to their campus facility. Can the Huskies handle all that?