The Cincinnati Bearcats (8-3, 4-2) and the Connecticut Huskies (5-6, 2-4) meet in a Big East battle on Saturday as both teams look to end the regular season on a winning note.
The Bearcats have quietly put together a strong season at 8-3. Despite some struggles to close out October in losses to Toledo and Louisville, the Bearcats have won three of their last four and could still post 10 wins on the season, including a bowl win.
The Huskies surprisingly find themselves on the brink of bowl eligibility. After losing four straight games to get to 3-6 no one thought the Huskies could have a shot at a bowl game, but after back-to-back wins over Pittsburgh and Louisville they need only one more win.
With the regular season coming to a close, here's everything you need to know about this season-ending Big East tilt.
When: Saturday, Dec. 1 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Conn.
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Radio: Free Football Radio
Spread: Connecticut +5 (via Covers.com)
The Huskies are a five-point underdog at home as the Bearcats come into this contest with a much better record.
Upon first glance, this game appears to be a mismatch. Cincinnati has been one of the better teams in the conference and only has losses to top dogs Louisville and Rutgers in conference play.
However, the Huskies have what it takes to pull off the upset. Connecticut has played its best football all season the last two weeks. With back-to-back wins against Pittsburgh and Louisville, the Huskies have the momentum to not only cover the spread with the points but also win outright.
Considering that Connecticut's bowl life is on the line at home, the Huskies look like a good bet to at least come within five points of Cincinnati.
Over/Under: 40.5 (via Covers.com)
This is a battle of great defensive units.
Connecticut is literally one of the worst teams at scoring points in all of college football (ranked 120th nationally in points scored) but it doesn't let teams score either (19th in the country with 18.5 points per game).
The Bearcats aren't quite as inept on offense as the Huskies, but they also have a defense that ranks near the top in scoring defense (ranked 13th at 17.2 points per game).
Basically, neither team has an offense that strikes fear into the hearts of opposing defensive coordinators and both teams are proficient in keeping opposing offenses out of the end zone. Regardless of who you like to win this one, it's probably not hitting the over.
Injury Report via USA Today (as of 11/29/2012)
DB Trenier Orr, Undisclosed, Questionable
OL Walter Stewart, Upper Body, Out (10/23)
QB Chandler Whitmer, Concussion, Questionable
DE Elijah Norris, Shoulder, Out for season (11/1)
T Adam Masters, Ankle, Out for season (10/30)
DE Jesse Joseph, Achilles, Out for season (9/29)
DE Ted Jennings, Knee, Out for season (9/14)
TE Sean McQuillan, Ankle, Out for season
By virtue of Cincinnati's losses to Rutgers and Louisville, this game has absolutely no BCS implications. The Bearcats fell short of the Big East crown this season and will probably be auditioning for the bowls that could extend an invitation when the bowl bids become finalized.
The Huskies were eliminated from the conference title picture long ago, but that doesn't mean this game is a throw-away for them. Connecticut needs a win to get to six wins on the season and become bowl eligible.
For seniors, the allure of playing one more game is all the motivation needed to leave it all on the field. The Huskies should have no problems preparing for a good one on Saturday.
Keys for Cincinnati Victory
The Bearcats need a big performance from senior quarterback Brendon Kay to come out on top against Connecticut.
The Huskies have a great defense and have fared well against traditional pocket passers, but they haven't seen many quarterbacks with the dual threat capabilities of Kay. The athletic senior has made three starts for the Bearcats since leading the team to a second-half comeback against Syracuse in relief of Munchie Legaux.
In those three starts Kay is 2-1. In the two wins Kay had 119 yards on 14 carries. Those aren't Johnny Manziel or Braxton Miller numbers, but it's enough to make defenses take pause before forsaking containment assignments.
In Kay's one loss as a starter he was bottled up as a runner. He only picked up 46 yards on 13 carries and threw two interceptions to no touchdowns as a passer. Cincinnati will need Kay to have a strong game in both facets of his game to stretch this defense.
Keys for Connecticut Victory
With quarterback Chandler Whitmer questionable to play due to his concussion sustained against Louisville, there's a good chance Johnny McEntee will be called upon to start.
McEntee may be best known for a YouTube video featuring some crazy "trick passes" that show off his accuracy but that hasn't always shown up on the field.
McEntee was the Huskies starter last season so this isn't his first rodeo, but he needs to step up and play like a savvy veteran to give his Huskies a chance on offense. The Connecticut ground game has struggled all season (117 in the nation at 92.6 yards per game) but it has shown promise when the Huskies pass the ball well.
If McEntee can step it up in one of his last games at Connecticut he'll lead his team to a remarkable upset.
On paper, it's easy to see why the Bearcats are favored.
The defenses are nearly carbon copies of one another, and Cincinnati's offense has a slight advantage over its completely ineffective Connecticut counterpart.
However, this game could come down to motivation. The Bearcats really don't have much to play for. They've been eliminated from the conference championship and are already guaranteed a bowl bid.
The Huskies, on the other hand, have momentum going with two upset wins in a row and just need one more to become bowl eligible. That could be what gives them the extra push they need to spring the upset.
Predicted Score: Connecticut 13, Cincinnati 10