Preview: WVU - Cincinnati

Every week, it seems as if West Virginia has to fend off another battle for the top spot in the league. This week, it's Cincinnati with hopes of replacing the Mountaineers atop the Big East ladder.

BlueGoldNews.com Game Scorecard
Sat 11/8/08 7:00 PM

Morgantown, WV

Mountaineer Field
Record: 6-2
BCS: 25
Last Game
UConn W 35-3
TV: ESPNU
Radio: Sirius, MSN
Web: BlueGoldNews.com
Record: 4-2
BCS: NR
Last Game
USF W 24-10
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2008 Schedule

Series: WVU 14-1-1
First Meeting: 1921
Last Meeting: 2007
Rosters/Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2008 Schedule

Click for Morgantown, West Virginia Forecast


INJURIES

WVU - Jim Lewis (Foot) Doubtful, Archie Sims (Head) Out, Courtney Stuart (Knee) Out

UC - Dustin Grutza (Leg) Questionable, Chazz Anderson (Knee) Probable, Chris Jurek (Ankle) Probable


GAME OUTLOOK

WVU Offense vs. Cincinnati defense

The Cincinnati defense is allowing 385.5 yards per game, ranking them 43rd in the country. They are allowing 20.5 points per game which is good for 35th in the country. The big story with Cincinnati's defense is their ability to create turnovers, especially with Mike Mickens roaming the field in the secondary. Couple that with defensive tackle Terrill Byrd returning and this defense becomes pretty formidable.

Byrd is a perennial fixture on the All-Big East team, he's a disruptive force who requires more than one blocker and makes everyone else on the defense a little better at his job. Only 6-0 and 271 pounds, Byrd used his quickness and leverage to amass 22 tackles this season. He has not been in the backfield as much as he was last season, but that is in large part because he has seen many more double teams. Also playing upfront for the Bearcats is senior Adam Hoppel, who is an underrated, workmanlike tackle. Hoppel this year has 14 tackles including two tackles for a loss.

At defensive end are Lamonte Nelms and Connor Barwin. Nelms, at 6-3 and 245 pounds, is a great athlete. This season he has 8 1/2 tackles for losses, including four sacks. Barwin, who has also played on the basketball team, leads the team with seven sacks and 9 1/2 tackles for loss. Barwin is a 6-4, 240 pound senior who is a gifted all-around athlete with the speed and upper body strength to fight through double teams, and the quickness to get to the quarterback. He hs also demonstrated innate kick blocking ability. All around, the Bearcats are solid upfront.

All three starters at linebacker were starters last season although some are playing new positions. Ryan Manalac is one of the leaders on defense, returning at the middle linebacker position. At 6-0 and 232 pounds, he plays the position very fast from sideline-to-sideline. This season he is tied for first on the team in tackles with 48.

Junior Andre Revels moved to weakside on a full-time basis after some time in the middle last season. Revels is stocky at 6-0, 226 pounds, and takes good angles at the ball carrier and has excellent football speed. Revels has 43 tackles this season. Playing the strong side is senior Corey Smith, who is the most experienced of the linebackers. Smith this season has 44 tackles, including seven behind the line. While only 6-1 and 213 pounds, he closes quickly and has the speed to be a factor in pass defense.

In the defensive backfield the one name to focus on is Mickens. He is a lockdown corner with the track speed and next level cover skills to vie for All-America honors. Far more physical than his 6-0, 170-pound frame might indicate, Mickens is as explosive as any player on the defensive side of the ball in the country. This season he has 48 tackles and three interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

Playing alongside Mickens at cornerback is DeAngelo Smith, who also excels in coverage. He has 37 tackles this season to go along with one interception. Playing the strong safety position is Cedric Tolbert who has played well this season racking up 15 tackles and one interception.

Overall this is a solid defense. Mickens and Smith can match up with any receiver in the conference, let alone on West Virginia's roster. Look for West Virginia to attack on the ground both with Pat White and Noel Devine. Don't be surprised to see a similar stat line for Pat White in terms of carries and pass attempts as he recorded in the UConn. This isn't an impenetrable defense, but it is playing with confidence. Recording scoring drivew will be a tough task for West Virginia. The athletes West Virginia has in the backfield should be the difference in this matchup.

By The Numbers
WVU Scoring Offense 25.2 ppg, Rushing Offense 229.5 ypg, Passing Offense 124.9 ypg
UC Scoring Defense 20.5 ppg, Rushing Defense 110.1 ypg, Passing Defense 221.4 ypg

Advantage: West Virginia


WVU Defense vs. Cincinnati Offense

The Cincinnati offense has had to endure a slew of injuries that would have devastated most teams. All season long they have had a revolving door at the quarterback position with Tony Pike, Chazz Anderson, and Dustin Grutza seeing the majority of the playing time. A total of four different quarterbacks have taken snaps for the Bearcats this season, and yet the offense has managed to average 404.8 yards per game good for 39th in the nation and average 26.8 points per game which ranks them 59th in the nation. This offense is well-coached and has talented receivers that have helped the quarterbacks be productive in the passing game

Junior quarterback Tony Pike is back under center for the Bearcats after breaking his non-passing arm, which is now being held together with a plate and six screws. Grutza was the starter to begin the season but broke his foot against Oklahoma, and he could return as a backup this week, pending his performance in practice. Last week Pike led the Bearcats past South Florida, completing 20 of 28 passes for 281 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. For the season, Pike is competing 61.8% of his passes and has thrown for nine touchdowns compared to just three interceptions.

Jacob Ramsey and John Goebel have shouldered the load at running back this season for the Bearcats. Ramsey has rushed for 437 yards on 93 carries, while Goebel has rushed for 345 yards on 72 carries to go along with five touchdowns. Neither back is flashy, but they are tough inside and run the ball adwquatelyly. Ramsey is 5-11, 218 pounds and is a powerful north-south runner who can run through arm tackles. Goebel is a rugged 6-0, 208-pounder who will lower his shoulder to pick up the tough yards and pick off rushers on passing plays. Goebel has earned a significant role in an offense lacking depth in the backfield.

The two big play receivers for the Bearcats are Mardy Gilyard and Dominick Goodman. Gilyard had a big game last week against South Florida and has had a great season thus far. Gilyard has caught 43 passes for 685 yards and seven touchdowns. At 6-1, 180 pounds he is one of the fastest players on the team and gets a lot of quick screens with blockers in front of him to take advantage of his speed. Goodman has caught 48 passes for 587 yards and five touchdowns. Goodman uses his 6-1, 210 frame to shield off defenders very well and does a great job of making touch catches in traffic.

On the offensive line, the tackles are senior Khalil El-Amin and junior Jeff Linkenbach. The 6-4, 312-pound El-Amin is one of the unit's better athletes. He lost weight in the offseason in an attempt to improve his stamina and become a step quicker. At center is senior Chris Jurek who brings a lot of experience to the position but not a lot of size. Jurek, at 6-2 and just 260 pounds is vulnerable to getting thrown around by bigger defensive linemen.

The two guards are Jason Kelce and Trevor Canfield. Canfield is a senior and an All-Big East second teamer. At a svelte 6-5 and 295 pounds, he's a physical run blocker, who'll need to improve his athleticism and pass protecting to make a run at the NFL. At right guard is be 6-4, 269-pound sophomore Kelce, who struggled playing center last season. Freed from the burden of making snaps and calls on the line, the coaching staff believes the former walk-on linebacker is a much more effective blocker.

West Virginia is stingy in giving up points, and forced five turnovers against UConn to up its advantage to plus seven in turnover margin. WVU's overall team speed on defense will win out, but watch out for the play making ability of the Bearcat receievers.

By The Numbers
WVU Scoring Defense 14.8 ppg, Rushing Defense 122.6 ypg, Passing Defense 186.1 ypg
UC Scoring Offense 26.8 ppg, Rushing Offense 124.6 ypg, Passing Offense 260.9 ypg

Advantage: West Virginia


WVU Special Teams vs. Cincinnati Special Teams

Taking control of the place kicking the season has been sophomore Jacob Rogers. Rogers is 9-9 on field goal attempts this year, including a 54-yard field goal. At 6-3 and 200 pounds, Rogers has a huge leg, nailing a 55-yarder against Oregon State last season and standing out on kickoffs as well

Senior Kevin Huber, a former walk-on, was a revelation in his first season as the punter, averaging a nation's best 46.9 yards and showing great directional skills. Cincinnati led the country in net punting, a direct correlation to the performance of its All-American punter. Huber is among the semifinalists for the Ray Guy Award and ranks sixth in the nation with a 45.9 average through seven games.

On punt returns senior DeAngelo Smith handles the duties. Smith is a shifty runner in the open field and so far this season has 12 returns for 107 yards. He has yet to return one for a touchdown this season. Gilyard is the kickoff return specialist and so far this season has returned 20 kicks for 549 yards and average of 27.5 per return. Gilyard this season has returned one kick for a 97-yard touchdown, and figures to be a threat against WVU's porous coverage team. Look for WVU to avoid Gilyard if at all possible.

By The Numbers
WVU Net Punting 40.4 yards per punt, Kickoff Returns 22.1 yards per return, Punt Returns 8.9 yards per return
UC Net Punting 41.5 yards per punt , Kickoff Returns 23.6 yards per return, Punt Returns 9.1 yards per return

Advantage: Cincinnati


PICKS TO CLICK

On Offense: Noel Devine

On Defense: Quentin Andrews


PREDICTION

Cincinnati is a dangerous team to play at any time, but especially now, as they appear to be peaking. The problem for the Bearcats is that West Virginia has also played well as of late, and has played very well at home. The key to this game is the run defense of Cincinnati, which is solid, but there aree are too many weapons in the WVU backfield for it to handle. That, combined with how well the West Virginia defense has been playing, will lead to a Mountaineer victory. A complete game from the Mountaineers will make them very difficult to beat.

WVU - 31 Cincinnati - 14


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