at Cincinnati 35 … Connecticut 27
Posted Dec 3, 2011

CFN Preview, Prediction & Game Story - Connecticut at Cincinnati

2011 Prediction & Game Story

Week 14, Connecticut at Cincinnati

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at Cincinnati 35 … Connecticut 27

CFN Analysis: COMING

(AP) CINCINNATI -- Munchie Legaux threw a career-high three touchdown passes on Saturday, and Cincinnati's defense got two scores of its own, setting up a 35-27 victory over Connecticut that left the Bearcats one of three teams sharing the Big East title.

Although the Bearcats (9-3, 5-2) got their third title in four years, they likely will miss out on the league's BCS bid. West Virginia (9-3, 5-2) will get it if, as expected, the Mountaineers (No. 23 BCS, No. 22 AP) are the highest-ranked Big East team in the final BCS standings.

Louisville (7-5, 5-2) also shared the title and would have gotten the bid if the Bearcats had lost on Saturday. The Huskies (5-7, 3-4) didn't have another upset in them.

Lineman Walter Stewart plucked the ball from UConn quarterback Johnny McEntee's passing hand in the end zone for Cincinnati's first touchdown, and Drew Frey returned an interception 15 yards for a 14-0 lead.

Connecticut (5-6) at Cincinnati (8-3) Dec. 3, 12:00, ESPN

Here's The Deal … By the time this game kicks off at Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati will know exactly what's at stake. They'll have watched Thursday night's West Virginia-South Florida contest, knowing that a Mountaineers loss would create an opening to win the Big East title, and appear in a third BCS bowl game over the last four seasons. If the ‘neers win, however, the Bearcats' potential booty becomes far less appealing. They stopped the bleeding from a two-game losing streak, remaining alive in the league race with a crucial 30-13 defeat of Syracuse.

Connecticut delivered one of last weekend's big surprises in the league, knocking Rutgers from the conference chase with an improbable 40-22 rout. In so doing, the Huskies stayed alive in their own quest to return to the postseason for a fifth consecutive year. It's been a streaky and highly unpredictable campaign for the program and first-year head coach Paul Pasqualoni, but a bowl game and 15 more practices would provide a much-needed jolt into 2012.

Why Connecticut Might Win: Yeah, the offense scored a season-high 40 points last week, but don't be confused by the numbers. That output wouldn't have been possible without the D, which created a whopping six turnovers. The Huskies are capable of shutting down a Cincinnati offense still adjusting to life without injured QB Zach Collaros.

The Bearcats haven't been the same in a long time, lacking pop and execution. Connecticut features a dynamite front seven, comprised of linemen Trevardo Williams, Kendall Reyes and Twyon Martin, and linebackers Sio Moore and Jory Johnson. Williams, in particular, has been one of the nation's hottest pass rushers of late, collecting nine sacks over the last four games. A pressured Munchie Legaux, Collaros' replacement, will be an ineffective Munchie Legaux.

Why Cincinnati Might Win: The Huskies used takeaways to jet past Rutgers last Saturday, a necessity for its sputtering offense. It's a good thing for the home team that it ranks second in the league in fewest turnovers committed this season. It'll take a more conservative tact with the ball, running Isaiah Pead, who's currently 67 yards behind Connecticut rookie RB Lyle McCombs in the Big East rushing race.

It's on defense, though, where the Bearcats will enjoy their biggest edge, stalling the inefficient and one-dimensional Huskies attack. The Cincinnati D has been underrated and overlooked all year, allowing just 19 points a game. It will control the line of scrimmage, as it's done for much of the season, beating the Huskies to the backfield with LB JK Schaffer and linemen Derek Wolfe, Walter Stewart, John Hughes and Dan Giordano.

What To Watch Out For: There isn't a quarterback controversy in Cincinnati. There are suddenly options for head coach Butch Jones. Legaux remains the starter and the better passer, but the Bearcats injected backup Jordan Luallen into the mix with positive results. The Georgia Tech transfer is a tall and rangy athlete who gave the offense a much-needed spark on the ground at the Carrier Dome. Not only did he pick up 77 yards on eight carries, but he also helped soften up the Syracuse defense. Connecticut can expect to see more of the same this weekend, a nuance of talents to keep the attack from getting stale.

What Will Happen: Regardless of what happens at Raymond James Stadium on Thursday night, Cincinnati will have a tough time shaking loose from Connecticut. The Huskies have their own motivation, and a defense that's capable of spearheading the upset. What they don't have, however, is the requisite pop or consistency on offense to actually close the deal, especially on the road.

The Bearcats, while certainly not potent with the ball, appear to have found a formula for modest success in the aftermath of Collaros' injury. Legaux is three games older than he was at the beginning of November, and Luallen is a wild card who'll keep the Connecticut staff guessing. The duo, plus the running of Pead, will get Cincy over the hump in a hard-fought game.

CFN Prediction: Cincinnati 24 … Connecticut 17
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: Cincinnati -9.5    O/U: 49

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