Week 12 – Rutgers at Cincinnati

Posted Nov 14, 2012

Week 12 Fearless Prediction – Rutgers at Cincinnati

Rutgers (8-1) at Cincinnati (7-2) Nov. 17, 12:00, SNY

Here's The Deal: Three teams are still vying for the Big East championship and the automatic BCS bowl berth that goes with it. Two of those programs will lock horns at Nippert Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Rutgers is actually in the pole position for what would be the school's first-ever conference title. The math for the Scarlet Knights is elementary—win the next three games, and they can go celebrate what would likely be a berth in the Orange Bowl. The nation's 22nd-ranked team has only fallen to Kent State of the MAC, affording it a little margin for error that no other contender will enjoy in November. The Knights haven't faced a Big East opponent in almost a month, going outside the conference for the last two games.

Having stumbled to Louisville in overtime on Oct. 26, Cincinnati's formula for a big payday and bigger exposure in January is far more complex. With a loss on Saturday, the Bearcats are on life support. However, if they can get to 8-2, the landscape changes dramatically. Cincy will enter this week's showdown with a tailwind after beating Syracuse and Temple by double-digits in back-to-back weekends.

Why Rutgers Might Win: No one in the Big East boasts a better D.

The Scarlet Knights have had one hiccup all year, the 35-23 loss to Kent State, but otherwise rank in the Top 25 nationally in just about every major category. Cincinnati wants to run George Winn, easily its best weapon, but how is that going to work against a stout group allowing three yards a carry? The Bearcats are liable to hit a brick wall led by DT Scott Vallone and linebackers Khaseem Greene and Steve Beauharnais. If Rutgers can succeed in taking Winn out of the Cats arsenal, it'll force them to throw the ball more than the 20-25 times that they'd prefer to do. The more that the ball is in the air, the more likely it is that Rutgers will increase its lead in Big East takeaways.

Why Cincinnati Might Win: It's not at the Rutgers level, but the Bearcats D has been underrated all year. And the Scarlet Knights may not be able to change that trend.

Rutgers is not moving the ball with any consistency. QB Gary Nova is in a slump, and RB Jawan Jamison isn't getting the wide holes he was seeing in September. And now the Knights must travel to Nippert Stadium, where Cincinnati hasn't lost this season. John Jancek has done an unheralded job with a defense that had rebuilding to do when the year began. They're allowing just 18 points a game, and have yielded only nine touchdown passes in nine games. There aren't many headliners, especially after DE Walter Stewart went down, but senior linebackers Greg Blair and Maalik Bomar have helped make sure that plays down often get beyond the second level.

What To Watch Out For: What took you so long, Butch?

Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones stuck by starting QB Munchie Legaux through the worst of times, but finally pulled the plug and handed the ball to Brendon Kay. The way the senior performed against Temple a week ago, Bearcats fans have to be wondering what took Jones so long. Kay went 13-of-21 for 244 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. He also rushed for 71 yards on seven carries, generally looking in command of the offense. The quarterback faces a different test one this week, one which will force him to make more plays under duress.

What Will Happen: In a game likely to devolve into an alley fight, Rutgers is better equipped to survive in hand-to-hand combat.

There's not a lot of gap between Cincinnati and Rutgers, and the Bearcats are home. However, while both offenses will fight for yards and points, it's the Scarlet Knights defense that'll be the best unit on the field. It's a championship-caliber group prepared to make a push for a title. Winn and Jamison will have little room to roam. Nova and Kay won't make many plays downfield. This is the type of game in which every point matters, meaning kickers Tony Miliano of Cincinnati and Nick Borgese of Rutgers will be on center stage.

CFN Prediction: Rutgers 23 … Cincinnati 21
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Cincinnati -6.5 O/U: 47
Must Watch Rating (5 – Killing Them Softly, 1 – The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2): 3