Week 9 - Cincinnati at Louisville
Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater
Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater
Posted Oct 25, 2012

Week 9 Fearless Prediction – Cincinnati at Louisville

Cincinnati (5-1) at Louisville (7-0) Oct. 26, 8:00, ESPN2

Here's The Deal: The race to represent the Big East in a BCS bowl game has been narrowed down to three teams. Two of them will look to gain an edge in the standings in this Friday's annual Battle for the Keg of Nails.

From as far back as the preseason, Louisville has been the de facto favorite to reign above the conference in 2012. This week it gets its best chance to date to prove that it's worthy of the pole position. The Cardinals have survived as much as they've thrived this season, winning the last five games by an average of less than six points. Ranked one spot behind Rutgers at No. 16, Louisville is looking to make a statement after beating seven teams unlikely to be a part of the postseason.

Cincinnati used to be one of the Big East's three undefeated members, but that was before it got caught looking ahead to this game. The Bearcats fell out of the Top 25 by losing to Toledo in the Glass Bowl, 29-23. Since the Rockets play in the MAC, the outcome has no bearing on the Big East title chase, though Cincy's season can take a sudden turn toward irrelevancy if a second straight loss is incurred.

Why Cincinnati Might Win: The Bearcats don't do one thing particularly great, but they do a lot of little things well.

Cincinnati can run the ball with George Winn, stretch defenses with the versatility of QB Munchie Legaux and has played surprisingly well on D. Despite suffering key losses to graduation, and a crushing injury to top pass rusher Walter Stewart, the Bearcats are still creating turnovers, getting into the backfield and preventing big plays. Heck, high-powered Toledo was held out of the end zone, and was forced into five field goals. The unit is fundamentally sound and strong up the middle with LB Greg Blair and tackles Camaron Beard and Jordan Stepp.

Why Louisville Might Win: At the most important position on the field, the Cardinals will enjoy a considerable advantage.

Legaux is still flighty, phenomenal on one play, yet maddeningly inconsistent on the next. Teddy Bridgewater, on the other hand, is the kind of quarterback a coach wants with the ball in his hand late in a game. His numbers aren't staggering, but that has a lot to do with his team's commitment to the run. Louisville wants to set the tone with the two-headed ground game of Senorise Perry and Jeremy Wright, which makes Bridgewater doubly dangerous on play-action. The sophomore isn't going to make many mistakes, deftly dishing the ball one of his numerous tall and athletic receivers.

What To Watch Out For: At long last, Charlie Strong has a pass rusher he can count on at Louisville.

It's taken half a season, but in DE Lorenzo Mauldin, the Cardinals finally have a speed demon off the edge who'll force opponents to consider doubling him. Just a sophomore, he's a fantastic athlete, quick off the snap and even quicker around the edge. The reigning Big East Defensive Player of the Week has 4.5 tackles for loss over the last games, and is capable of forcing the erratic Legaux into costly mistakes when he's flushed from the pocket.

What Will Happen: Louisville isn't nearly as dominant as it appeared in the first two-plus games of 2012, but it's still one of the two Big East teams with a legit shot of earning a BCS bowl bid.

The gap between the Cardinals and the Bearcats isn't as wide as the national perception would lead many to believe. However, Louisville is going to survive this equivalent of a conference semifinal game because it has the better quarterback and the luxury of the home crowd. This is Bridgewater's kind of a game, an opportunity to put his poise, leadership and accuracy on display for the chunk of the country that's yet to see him in action. He'll be the steady hand that leads his Cards to a key victory, throwing two touchdown passes and two fewer picks than his counterpart.

CFN Prediction: Louisville 28 … Cincinnati 20
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Louisville -4 O/U: 54
Must Watch Rating (5 – The Girl, 1 – Don't Trust The B In Apt. 23): 4