Cincinnati (8-3) at Connecticut (5-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 1, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Rentschler Field (40,000) -- East Hartford, Connecticut. Television: ABC. Home Record: Cincinnati 6-1, UConn 3-2. Away Record: Cincinnati 1-2, UConn 2-4. Neutral Record: Cincinnati 1-0, UConn 0-0. Conference Record: Cincinnati 4-2, UConn 2-4. Series Record: Cincinnati leads, 6-2.
GAME NOTES: With its postseason hopes still hanging by a thread, the Connecticut Huskies host a Cincinnati team with Big East title aspirations at Rentschler Field.
Although the Bearcats cannot win the conference championship outright, if Louisville takes down Rutgers on Thursday and Cincinnati wins this game, the Bearcats would be part of a four-way share of the Big East title with Louisville, Rutgers and Syracuse. Cincinnati would not be able to earn the conference's BCS bid though. Overall, Cincinnati is 8-3 this season with a 4-2 mark against league foes. Only one of those wins has come on the road.
The Huskies are 2-4 in league play. However after a stunning 23-20 win in triple overtime on the road over Louisville last weekend, UConn could still be in the mix for a bowl bid. At 5-6 overall a win in this matchup gives the Huskies the six necessary wins for bowl eligibility.
Cincinnati leads the all-time series between these programs with a 6-2 mark against the Huskies. UConn has won two of the three matchups held at Rentschler Field.
Since taking over for Munchie Legaux at quarterback, Brendon Kay has a record of 2-1. In those starts he has completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 673 yards, three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. He has also been sacked six times. Losing Legaux has not meant a loss in the rushing production from the quarterback as Kay has rushed for 165 yards and a score in those three games.
Kay has the great fortune of being able to hand the ball off to George Winn. Winn leads the Big East in rushing yards (1,134) and is one of just two backs in the conference to be picking up more than 100 yards per game on the ground. Winn has also had a nose for the end zone, punching it in on 11 different occasions which is tied for the second most in the Big East. Winn got back to normal last weekend with a 119-yard, two-touchdown effort against South Florida after he failed to get more than 100 yards in two straight games.
Tight end Travis Kelce (35 receptions, 530 yards, 5 TDs) has seen a big rise in his production since Kay took over. He has brought in at least four passes in each of the last four games. During that span he has had 50 or more receiving yards three times and has also hauled in three of his five touchdowns this season. Kenbrell Thompkins (30 receptions, 512 yards, 2 TDs) has been another consistent pass catcher, while Ralph David Abernathy (24 receptions, 294 yards, 3 TDs) is utilized in the passing game out of the backfield.
All together Cincinnati has been one of the best offenses in the Big East this season, ranking second in scoring (30.7 ppg) and total yards (437.5 ypg).
On the defensive side of things the Bearcats are a solid group limiting teams to 373.8 yards of total offense. Where the team's real success has been is in keeping opponents off the scoreboard, as Cincinnati ranks second in the conference in scoring defense (17.2 ppg). The success comes from the Bearcats' ability to tighten up n the red zone where teams are scoring at a 69.7 percent clip, the second best mark in the Big East.
Tackling machine Greg Blair (115 tackles) has been the anchor for the squad and has also helped create turnovers with a pair of interceptions and a forced fumble. The loss of top pass rusher Walter Stewart earlier in the season has hurt the team's ability to create pressure, although Adrian Witty showed some competence last week with a pair of sacks.
If the Huskies are really going to get into a bowl game they will have to get the Lyle McCombs of the last two weeks to materialize again. McCombs rushed for more than 120 yards for the second straight week against Louisville after failing to do so in the first nine games of the year. McCombs rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season and right now has an even 800 yards to go along with five scores.
Getting real production out of the running game will be vital since Chandler Whitmer has struggled. The junior-college transfer has completed just 58.2 percent of his passes this season for 2,400 yards and eight touchdowns. While those numbers aren't horrific his ball security (15 interceptions) has been. Whitmer also hasn't had a great deal of time to make decisions as he has been sacked 29 times, the second most among quarterbacks in the Big East.
Geremy Davis (39 receptions, 567 yards, TD) leads in receptions and yards but only has three catches for 20 yards in the last two games. Tight end Ryan Griffin (29 receptions, 399 yards, 5 TDs) is reliable, especially in the red zone.
Connecticut won't be able to counter Cincinnati's offensive success overall, as the Huskies rank at the very bottom of the conference in total offense (313.4 ypg) and scoring (17.8 ppg). The Huskies are the only team in the conference scoring fewer than 20 points per game.
Where Connecticut does have the edge is on the defensive side of the ball. In terms of total yards allowed there is no team better in the Big East (305.7 ypg). The Huskies' resistance has been stellar thanks to an affinity for getting in the backfield, as the team ranks second in the conference in tackles for loss (81) and first in sacks (31.0).
Several playmakers in the front seven lead the unit. Yawin Smallwood (110 tackles, 15.0 TFLs, 4.0 sacks) is the top performer, while Sio Moore (69 tackles, 14.5 TFLs, 7.0 sacks), Ryan With (45 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 3.5 sacks) and Trevardo Williams (13.5 TFLs, 11.5 sacks) are all making life hard on opposing backfields.
With their backs against the wall the Huskies will need another stellar effort from their defense. That could happen as Connecticut is built to stop a team like Cincinnati.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Connecticut 24, Cincinnati 21
11/28 10:41:23 ET